Google Clamps Down on Content Factories

Another sign of quality, original content -- sometimes at length -- becoming more valued on the Web:

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites — sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful,” Cutts wrote in a blog post. “At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites — sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

HuffPo Deal Dovetails With AOL Strategy

When AOL bought the Huffington Post, I typed notes and fielded a call from reporter @rfaughnder and never got to writing my own thoughts. Yesterday,. a good part of the discussion in a Social Media Week panel on valuation was about how AOL overpaid, on a purely financial basis (though we all know they were really buying whatever "ooomph" Arianna & Co. give it, not just a multiple of cash flow or revenues; think of what it's worth in PR terms if under Huffington's name it says "AOL" every time she's on ABC, NBC, CBS and all the rest. Not to mention her acumen and her staff's expertise.)

On the panel, Mark Patricof of MESA Global media advisors (and son of media-tech investor Alan Patricof) said HuffPo likely would have found it hard to reach $100 million (which I took to mean yearly revenues), the amount it would have taken to have a very successful IPO. So for them, it was a good deal.

Here's my bullet point list.
  • It shows AOL is now a content company -- especially, for now, written content -- not ISP or services
  • AOL gets HuffPo editorial acumen -- ability to aggregate as well as create
  • HuffPo gets resources (tech, business) and cash
  • But don’t ignore HuffPo technical acumen - content management and SEO,
  • Good value on financial basis? (For HuffPo, certainly. Good valuation, keep brand, keep leadership.)
  • Is this a good strategic fit?
  • Can cultures work together?
  • Arianna's politics an issue? (AOL won’t want to tick off conservatives.()
  • HuffPo was looking to do more local. Patch helps?
  • In line w/ AOL's plans and leaked document (referred to in piece linked below).
  • Another step in the new world of journalism and content creation.
And here are excerpts from Ryan Faughnder's piece in the Annenberg publication Neon Tommy: Huffington Post Deal Dovetails With AOL's Strategy

The changes are strategically in line with what AOL is trying to do already,” said Dorian Benkoil, senior vice president and editorial director of Teeming Media, a consultancy company for digital media organizations.

AOL will try to tap into The Huffington Post’s technical mastery of search engine optimization and content management, he said.

“They have created a successful modern media company based on aggregation, optimization and creation, as well as a very important social layer and the ability to link and monetize those links. I think that model is repeatable across the board,” he said.

According to a copy of AOL’s master plan, acquired by Business Insider, Armstrong wants AOL to “increase its story output from 33,000 to 55,000 per month, page-views from 1,500 to 7,000 and web optimization of stories to 95 percent. Stories are heavily vetted for their potential to draw advertising.

The Huffington Post will clearly benefit from the deal, Benkoil said.

“They get to continue to do what they do and preserve what they have while using the resources of AOL,” he said."

Social Tips and Tools

In honor of Social Media Week (#smw11), Dorian (@dbenk) and others @teemingmedia are tweeting about everything from valuations of media companies in the social age, to how to promote books through Twitter, Facebook and more.

They also give some links to some of their resources, readings and tools.

What is Design Now?

One of the things I love about working with talented people on a variety of dynamic digital media projects is that it makes me rethink basic concepts.

Designer Roger Black has gotten me to do that with his blog post on Treesaver, the company he and Filipe Fortes founded last year that I'm helping with business and communication strategy and execution. Treesaver is, at its heart, a way for publishers to streamline the publishing process and much more easily produce content for every screen and device without having to creat a website, then an iPad app, then an aAndroid app, then a tablet app and so on. It's all based on HTML5 which pretty much works on any reasonably new device with a browser.

Roger, whose imprint is on some of the most heralded publications and websites in the world (Esquire, to name just two), asks what design is in the digital age and in what ways designers have to turn their thinking around if they're not working in a fixed width, blank page. Even Web designers, Roger notes, tend to create their sites for computer screens in a fixed width.

But with what's known as "adaptive layout," the Web page will be adjusted for whatever screen size you're reading on. Someone may be accessing your content on one screen at this moment, another screen the next. The text may cascade into 3 columns here, 2 columns there, and photos may be positioned here, there, or nowhere depending on the screen or device.

What if you, as a publisher, can control a lot of aspects -- think through the fonts, colors, logos, images -- but have to accept a level of fluidity as well?

This is a next generation of thinking and design. We are, with tablet devices and more media consumption on screens, moving beyond the clunky link-and-blink image-laden websites that put design in the background. We're moving beyond an era when someone designs for a Web page, and then separately for mobile sites, apps and so on. We're getting at a time when everything from font and gradations of color can be thought of and brought to life, again, with the pleasure of reading brought to a screen, but without losing the functionality (linking, embedding, interactivity, social layers) that HTML allows.

The effects of all this can be rather subtle to the consumer. How does the design of, say, The National Enquirer communicate a different message than The New York Times? Does the website of a typical publication reflect its design? What about its mobile site or apps? What functions do you want to preserve? Is the design part of the information, the experience?

It's another layer of input, a new way of thinking, and a cross between flexibility and control for publishers and users.