Demand Media Tries to Silence its Critics

It seems Demand Media is finding the Internet content business more, er, demanding than expected.

Having failed to convince the world that it isn't just a purveyor of low-cost online crap, the owner of Answerbag and eHow (among others) is trying to silence its critics -- at least, those it thinks it can intimidate.

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As Forbes blogger Jeff Bercovici reports, earlier this week Demand Media sent a cease-and-desist letter to a blog started by disgruntled former employees of its freelance division, Demand Studios.

DM is accusing DemandStudiosSucks of violating its copyrights and trademarks by posting materials such as DM copyediting tests and internal PowerPoint slides to its forums. It even convinced the blog's ISP to take the site down for a bit, though it is back now.

The fact that DSS has been savaging Demand Studios -- not to mention the Internetwide backlash against content factories, which includes Google tweaking its algorithms to push Demand's content lower in its search results -- has nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

Of course, Demand Media is hardly the only bottom feeder in this lake. Associated Content (now owned by Yahoo), Seed (part of AOL), Examiner.com, and others are in the same game. And sites like the Huffington Post are only marginally better.

Their business model: Pay as little for content as they can get away with, toss it up on the InterWebs as quickly as possible, promote the hell out of it on search engines, collect a few ducats from advertisers thanks to people stupid enough to not only click on those links but also on the ads associated with them; repeat several thousand times each day.

An infographic found at OnlineMBA breaks down how companies like Demand Media work; it appears to be based on this Wired article by Dan Roth.

The good news? Demand Studios is hiring. Yes, you too could have an exciting career as a writer, filmmaker, copy editor, blogger, or "expert." To wit:

Create your own schedule and write about what you know. Join our freelance community and earn significant income while building your portfolio.

By "significant income" they mean from $7.50 to $20 per post. So if you're broke and desperate, you have a choice: Write for eHow or work at Mickey D's. You make about the same amount either way, but the health plan and the fries are better at one of them.

Here's an especially rich PowerPoint slide from Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt, posted on DemandStudiosSucks last January, describing how his company goes about obtaining "quality content."

Demand Media had better be careful; if Arianna finds out they're stealing her favorite lines, she might sue.

I have to admit, DemandStudiosSucks probably is violating DM's copyrights to some degree. For example, every page has a photo of an attractive, somewhat underdressed woman, taken from the Demand Media's archive of stock photos. But this C&D is clearly an attempt to shut up Demand's critics while trying to shore up its flagging stock price. It's something only a bully would do.

Is there too much crap on the Web? Don't just sit there, post something about it. Or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Demand Media tries to silence its critics," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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