Demand Media: ‘We’re Very White Hat’

Making fun of Demand Media is so easy, even theWall Street Journal can’t help biting its tongue:

[CEO Richard] Rosenblatt said the niche articles eHow writes about – How to Log In as Guest on Rosetta Stone, for example – may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but people want and need this information.

Demand Media’s first earnings call yesterday was good, all in all. The company, ticker symbol DMD, made a profit of $1 million in the fourth quarter (although the books show a loss because of stock conversion due to the recent IPO). But that’s a huge jump over the $3.9 million loss in that quarter of 2009.

The market seems bullish on the content company, which pays bottom dollar to its writers for putting words on the internet, in spite of the fact that Google said recently that it’s working to excise so-called “content farms” (which infamous content farmer Jason Calacanis recently admitted was “polluting the internet,” pledging reform) from search results.

About 41 percent of Demand’s traffic comes from Google, but Mr. Rosenblatt said his company plays carefully by the big G’s rules. He said Demand uses “white hat” tactics in contrast to “black hat” search engine manipulators who pay for links and build armies of fake sites that link to one another.

One Demand Media writer and Seeking Alpha blogger, Rocco Pendola, wrote he’s “not ready to buy yet” after listening in on the call. “As somebody who freelances and does contract work for the company, I have often found myself conflicted about what Demand does, where it’s headed, and its broader impact,” he wrote. But, he said, at least eHow articles today are way better than they were two years ago.

We poked around eHow this morning, and that comparison is hard to judge. Quality seems to vary widely across the site, from “How to Throw a Superbowl Party” to “How to Throw a Great Superbowl Party” to “How to Handle a Teen With Suicidal Thoughts,” all posted recently.

But just for fun, excerpts from eHow’s front page two years ago:

While the idea of an economic recession brings worry to those who have never experienced a recession, it does not have to. It is important to prepare for an economic recession as best as possible to make surviving one easier. —”How to Prepare for an Economic Recession”

Talk about your activities in your personal essay if you can. Discuss why they’re important to you and how they help to make you who you are. —”How to Spice Up a College Application”

Finally attach the tiny clips to the stainless sheet steel handles of the Head, and the outer most handle. And then add another tiny clip to each tiny clip. —”How to Make a Binder Clip Reindeer”

“Thank you for all the great feedback from the call; probably the first time avocados, paper laterns and roof rakes made their debut!” Mr. Rosenblatt tweeted yesterday. We weren’t sure what a roof rake was, but eHow has an extensive collection of articles on the subject.

ajeffries [at] | @adrjeffries


Demand Media: ‘We’re Very White Hat’