A mind-blowing article in November issue of Wired (17.11 – not yet on the web) on page 158 – and it isn’t even on the cover. Demand Media, which runs sites such as eHow and has published tens of thousands of instructional videos on YouTube produce over 4,000 articles and videos EACH DAY.
Demand use a few computer programs to mine current search engine terms, the ad market and competitor articles to determine daily what topics and articles to produce. A computer algorithm generates suggested article titles based on this information, these are then proofed and edited by humans proofers before the titles are added to an online repository of articles needed. Freelance writers and video producers trawl this site, write up their articles or shoot their videos for low, low fees (a typical video producer might need to make 10 videos a day to earn a wage).
This is a highly industrialized method of production, production to meet demand in real-time. And all of this is funded through advertising revenues…
Are there ways that academia could better use some of these notions? I would hate to see such an industrialised mode of content production, but the contrast with institutions, consortiums and even nations that have in the past spent millions of pounds on distance learning initiatives that have failed to return even one tenth of the investment could not be starker.