News organizations have always wrestled with the question of whether to give readers what they want or what they think readers should want. USA Today has apparently discovered a new solution to the challenge: Outsource the content that readers really want, and do the rest in house.
Demand Media, which is battling perceptions that its legions of low-paid freelancers are debasing the value of content, has now landed the nation’s second-biggest paper as a client. A new “Travel Tips by Demand Media” section on USA Today‘s website features articles like “How to Protect Your Home When Traveling” and “How to Get Free Hotel Upgrades,” all provided by Demand. USA Today is getting the content for free, but it’s sharing the resulting ad revenue with Demand.
USA Today says the outsourcing arrangement makes sense because its own staffers would never have produced “Travel Tips.” Says Travel GM Victoria Borton to AdAge, “We’re not going to sit and write 4,000 ‘How to Travel with a Toddler’ or ‘How to Find the Best Airfare Deals’ pieces, but that’s the sort of thing people are searching the search engines for.”
It’s a different style deal for Demand, which creates a mass of content around oft-searched topics and has primarily put those stories on sites it owns, like eHow. Critics have labeled Demand and its competitors “content farms,” but Demand has bristled at that term, and hired a high-profile editorial advisory board earlier this year to give itself some journalistic cred. The deal with USA Today now gives it a flagship client to brag about just as it is reportedly trying to land similar deals with other “traditional” news publishers, according to a report in the LA Times. It already has a deal with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Our own Staci D. Kramer chatted with CEO Richard Rosenblatt a few weeks ago. Check out highlights of the video interview, embedded below: