Media

Demand Media: Content farm? What content farm?

NOTE: GrowthBeat -- VentureBeat's provocative new marketing-tech event -- is a week away! We've gathered the best and brightest to explore the data, apps, and science of successful marketing. Get the full scoop here, and grab your tickets while they last.

Demand Media had its first earnings call as a public company this afternoon, and chief executive Richard Rosenblatt took the opportunity to fire back at critics who have accused the company of being nothing more than a content farm churning out articles targeted at search engines.

Rosenblatt had to endure a lot of criticism in silence due to the quiet period before Demand Media’s IPO and its first earnings report. Now, however, he said it’s time to respond. First, he acknowledged that Demand Media’s articles often address somewhat arcane topics, but he said that doesn’t mean they aren’t serving a real need for readers.

As examples, Rosenblatt offered two articles that have run on Demand Media sites. First, the company estimated that nearly 100,000 people search for “how to make a paper lantern,” and that 20,000 of them ended up reading the Demand Media article on that topic.

“I don’t have a use for that article, but lots of people do,” Rosenblatt said.

And with the snowy weather, the company estimated than 12,000 people recently searched for how to rake their roof, with thousands of them reading Demand’s article on that topic.

The second big criticism is about Demand Media’s quality. But Rosenblatt argued that the company’s editorial team has a strong quality control process in place, outlined on a new “Content Matters” website. In fact, he said the company “matches or exceeds traditional media companies.”

During the analyst question session, Rosenblatt also talked about Google’s new efforts to cut down on spammy content in its search results. That won’t hurt Demand Media’s traffic, he said — in fact, reducing duplicate or bad content in results actually helps the company’s traffic.

Rosenblatt was thinking about these criticisms earlier in the call when he talked about Demand Media’s flagship site eHow, where he said direct traffic is growing faster than search engine traffic. The implication: Demand Media isn’t entirely beholden to Google.

I don’t think that a few sound bites and a corporate website are going change Demand Media’s image, but hey, at least the company is making its case.

As for those earnings, Demand Media reported $73.6 million in revenue and $1 million in net income, beating its earlier estimates.

[image via Flickr/B Garrett]