"What Do We Want To Know About?"
Annie Lowrey and Angela Tchou run the numbers on the tags used in “content farm” websites to find out what it is the web-searching public is demanding articles about:
Rather, the top tags prove reassuringly banal: money (which appears 6,204 times in the tags), movie, show, school, family, students, business, game, years, and film. We want to know about our kids, our schoolwork, our travel, and our careers. We want to know about jobs, and what industries are growing.
Adding up and recombining the tags, one gets a better sense of what content farms are giving us. We want to know about news, but not just any news. Actual news sites—like Slate and the Huffington Post and Yahoo! News itself—have the real, newsy news covered. Publications are also increasingly savvy about performing some search-engine optimization of their own, making it harder for the farms to compete and pushing down their ad prices. Thus the big stories of 2010, like the Haiti earthquake and the midterm elections, do not make up much of the Associated Content canon. Likewise, celebrity sites have celebrities down pat—so not as many stories about Britney Spears and Lady Gaga as you would expect.
You can maybe think of this as a guide to where “real” news organizations are falling down on the job. Both hard news and celebrity news seem well-covered, but people are also looking for advice and self-improvement. And why shouldn’t they be? This stuff is important. Good personal health advice is incredibly valuable.