Tim Armstrong is starting to look a lot smarter. But he’s making me look smarter, still. Now that AOL has bought The Huffington Post, Tim Armstrong’s plan for World Domination via Content Farm is actually workable. But that’s a bad thing for everyone except Tim Armstrong.
OK, it’s a pretty sweet deal for Arianna Huffington too; the lady is now way-rich even for her, and as head of editorial at AOL is in a position to lead a charge into the new journalism.
Problem is, the new journalism looks pretty ugly.
First, props to Tim Armstrong. I mentioned last week that his plans for AOL’s content farming and making money just didn’t add up, and until the HuffPo deal they didn’t; 7,000 views per article on 55,000 articles per month? How could Tim Armstrong and AOL possibly afford to turn out that volume of content? Adding Huffington Post to the AOL content farm answers that question: the content is free; almost everyone who writes for Huffington Post does so sans compensation.
When Huffington Post was started, this was the biggest knock against it. Why would anyone bother reading post after post from Arianna Huffington’s liked-minded friends? It was a valid question, of course, but it ignored the business change issue: “journalism” is no longer about journalism”. Journalism is now about eyeball acquisition and search engine optimization. By its shear volume Huffington Post does SEO very, very well, and their vast volume of content costs nothing. As just part of the AOL content farm Huffington Post is an incredibly valuable asset.
And … umm … Tim Armstrong Sucks
But let’s be clear: with or without The Huffington Post AOL isn’t doing journalism, they’re simply gathering those eyeballs. They want to sell goods and services to those eyeballs and advertising to others with goods and services who want to get in front of those eyeballs.
Which is really what newspapers have always done . . . except they also produced the content they ran. If AOL/Huffington Post can produce their content for free and do the business end properly (again, folks . . . Search Engine Optimization . . . ), there’s no way that those who pay for producing their content can survive.
The great irony in the timing of the AOL/Huffington Post merger isn’t even that Tim Armstrong looked so very stupid last week and so smart now. It’s that Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily, lauched last week mostly to jeers of derision, now looks . . . even sillier than it did before.
By the way: if Search Engine Optimization still sounds like snake oil to you, search Google for Tim Armstrong Content Farm. Then, contact the Answer Guy about Search Engine Optimization.