How to Mock Content Farms in 10 Steps
When it comes to the web's sprawling how-to SEO bait, the line between real and parody is difficult to discern
You may have heard of "content farms"--online publishing companies that pay freelance writers tiny amounts of money to write marginally useful articles. The quality of the writing is often not very high, but because the articles are so search engine-friendly, enough people end up viewing these sites that they're able to stay in business. A lot of content farms maintain "How do I do X" Web sites--poor man's encyclopedias like eHow (how do I give my mom a birthday present?) and Mahalo (how do I get my lazy kids to do chores?). It's hard to know how many people find these helpful, but a lot of people certainly find them easy to mock. Thursday, Choire Sicha at The Awl pointed readers toward a new Tumblr called The Content Farm, which offers deadpan parodies of crappy step-by-step guides.
From How to Pour Milk:
Grasp the handle of the container in which the milk is in with your hand.
Lift it in an upwards direction, towards the ceiling, by moving your arm in an upwards direction while still holding the container handle with your hand.
Position the opening, or orifice, of the container over, or on top of, some type of receptacle such as a glass, cup, mug, bowl, teacup, small pitcher, measuring cup or saucer.
Funny stuff! But when the object of your satire is a site like Associated Content, there's a chance your jokes are falling on deaf ears. Here's a video on Associated Content that teaches you how to pour milk into a mug. It's full of helpful tips--"these are usually in gallon size, like this one, so they're kind of heavier in things like that than juice, so it requires more attention to detail"--and it doesn't appear to be a joke.
Here's the Content Farm joke-guide to boiling water ("proceed by locating your sink") and a 10-step real guide from WikiHow on the same subject ("remove from heat if necessary if the water starts to get too hot"). And HowCast has produced a how-to video guide for those too lazy to read:
Is there spoofing that which has no self-awareness? Is there shaming that which has no shame? When eHow is publishing step-by-step tutorials for men who want to wear skinny jeans, have things already gone further than satire can reach? Then again, maybe the how-to writers have been in on the joke from the start--consider "How to Stop Reading Stupid Articles About Unnecessary Things."