We’re generating more information every two days than we did in all of human history prior to 2003. Unfortunately almost all of it is YouTube clips, stupid top ten lists, infographics, and crap content created by underpaid hacks writing linkbait for content farms to generate AdSense revenue.
You may have read the other day that although it took all of human history up until 2003 to generate five exabytes of information, that much is now created every two days. I can tell you where all that data resides. It’s comprised mainly of YouTube clips of teenage boys igniting their farts, self-referential personal blog posts about why the blogger hasn’t blogged for a while, incomprehensible infographics, overwrought and not-very-funny flowcharts, and useless top ten lists of things that don’t warrant top ten lists. Below is our contribution to this steaming heap of useless data that guarantees that of the 2646 web pages you view this month (infographic here), approximately 2645 of them will be of no lasting value to the human race.
Top 5 Sites For Useless Top 10 (or 5, or 12, or 37, or 100) Lists
6.) Yahoo Buzz
As a proof of concept, I did a quick review of a popular link aggretor site today, and by far the two best places to find useless lists were Digg and Delicious , with Mixx , Clipmarks and Yahoo Buzz running a little anemically in distant third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively. Delicious wins a special award for featuring “25+ Useful Free E-books Every Blogger Should Read” and “5 Ways That Paper Books Are Better Than eBooks” at the same time. And no, I’m not going to link to the damn articles, because the single biggest reason these lists get created in the first place is to generate traffic, which we’ll explain in more detail below.
Top 5 Useless Lists We Found On These Sites today:
1.) 25 Best Social News And Social Bookmarking Websites for Designers And Developers – This one links to all the social bookmarking sites, to insure that a link to itself will pop up on all of them.
2.) 25 Best iPad Application Websites With Design Inspiration – Because, you know, who DOESN’T draw their design inspiration from iPad application websites?
3.) 8 CRM Tactics to Win Back Former Clients – You could probably only create a graphic this useless with all the time you had on your hands after losing the clients in the first place.
4.) 40 Hilarious Fortune Cookies Fortunes – I eat a lot of chinese food. I have a digital camera. Hmmm. I better make a website, before someone else does!
5.) 12 of the Most Ridiculous Books Ever Printed – I actually gave this list last place because I disagree with much of their list. I mean, what bookshelf is complete without The Haunted Vagina and The Big Coloring Book of Vaginas?
1.) Demand Media, the Content Farm
The number one offender when it comes to creating the most useless 999,999,999,999,999,999 of those 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of data we mentioned earlier is by far Demand Media. Learn more about how all this crap content is created by underpaid hack writers who whore themselves out for web traffic in this PBS MediaShift series of articles in which the writers explain what it’s like toiling on the content farm.
Top Six Tools Of The Content Farmer
Infographics – Muddle Your Meaningless Linkbait Topic With Pictures!
Infographics are interesting, because the whole idea behind them is supposed to be that you’re saying something more efficiently or effectively with an image rather than words, but almost universally the message gets clouded by the very media that was supposed to clarify it. We’ve talked about infographics and flow charts before, and in fact have created our own regularly. But the infographic has become an uninspired, uninformative, and unavoidable fixture on the web, and one of the key tools of the content farm hack. Below are two insightful infographics to illustrate my point.
This image from InfoGraphicsShowcase.com sums up a bunch of things. First of all, it cleverly points out the flaws of many infographics. But perhaps more importantly, the site it’s on makes it very easy to save the image, so we can resize it, place it on our site, and make it look like it’s our content, which it isn’t! There are thousands of content farm sites that are a feeble step up from being scraper sites that do this every day.
No Wonder I Don’t Understand Health Care – Even the US government is in on the grift. The image below is extracted from an actual US government document. It ironically is an excellent infographic, because its incomprehensibleness reflects health care in America with almost 100% accuracy.
Flow Charts – Not A Creative Bone In Your Body? Steal!
We tried our hand at this with our own original I dropped food on the floor should I eat it flowchart, only to be trumped two years later by this flowchart, which eventually made it all the way to a feature on Huffington Post. Ours languishes in the archives. *Sigh*. But worry not, aspiring content farmers! Because being in possession of no creativity whatsoever is no obstacle to creating a successful and well-trafficked site. Which is why so many websites and blogs that are utterly devoid of the ability to generate original content will do something like what we’ve done below.
This is the original Pan Flute Flow Chart, created by Toothpaste for Dinner. It has been used thousands of times without being credited, and a Google search will usually result in many sites including BoingBoing.net ranking higher for the search phrase “Pan Fute Flow Chart”
This is a great way to capitalize on this kind of graphic. Clean it up, don’t credit the creator, and then put YOUR web site’s URL on it. The combination of the cleaner graphic and offical-looking web address will ensure that THEIR content is now YOUR content.
The remaining tools of the linkbaiting hack are numerous, but topping the list would be any articles about:
Top SEO Tricks – Because maybe you’ll link to them as great SEO tips, and they’ll actually finally show up in Google as great SEO tips.
20 Blogging Tips – Because when you have nothing to write about, all that’s left is writing about how everyone else should write.
Best WordPress Themes – Because although everyone can call tech support at the hosting company to install it, they have NO IDEA how to customize it.
Keys To A Successful Startup - Because, you know – when you’re busy with a successful startup, you’ll want to take time to share how to do it.
Free Software – Because everybody wants to own Adobe InDesign, but no-one has a few grand laying around.