'AOL Way' revealed: Screw quality, grind down staff

Company prepared to go all in on 'content farm' strategy; employees unenthused

The trouble with most journalists and writers is that they don't realize their true potential. AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong knows this and wants to help. (Also see: How AOL is like Plankton's Chum Bucket) That's why Armstrong has set ambitious editorial goals for his company. By April, Armstrong wants AOL to create 55,000 stories per month, up 67 percent from the current 33,000. And one way to do that is to have AOL's full-time typists writers crank out five to 10 articles per day. You know, probing think pieces. The other details revealed in a leaked memo on "The AOL Way" -- published by Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson -- are fairly mind-blowing for anyone who knows what it takes to produce decent content. The bottom line is that AOL is eagerly embracing the "content farm" approach pioneered by Demand Media -- generate cheap content based on three major considerations: whether it can get page views, whether it can generate sufficient revenue, and whether it can be produced quickly. Other than that, it's all about quality. Prepare for a tsunami of AOL articles about Lady Gaga, Sarah Palin, American Idol, Jersey Shore, Charlie Sheen and how to carve a pumpkin. Oh, and then there's video. Armstrong, as Carlson, explains, "wants video stories to go from being 4% of all stories produced to 70%." Because reading lots of words is hard! If the editorial staff is able to fulfill Armstrong's vision, who knows, we someday may refer to Demand Media as "the thinking man's AOL."

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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