How-To Writers Admit Making Stuff Up

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As media companies ramp-up their efforts to squeeze out more content from cheaper labor, venerable journalists incessantly promise that readers will pay the price for the sub-par writing. The largest purveyors of the sort of content these pundits question, such as Demand Media's E-How, Yahoo's Associated Content, and Philip Anschutz's, specialize in creating articles that attract the attention of readers who type questions into Google. They employ thousands of meagerly paid (think, sometimes, in terms of cents, not dollars) contributors who are encouraged to churn out hundreds of posts in hopes of driving up hits to their websites to increase advertising revenue.

In a profile for PBS, Corbin Hiar speaks to a few of these "content creators" and finds one glaring problem: they tend to make stuff up--a lot. That's a big problem when one is writing "How-To" articles.

Here are some of the confessions the PBS writer teases out:

"A lot of my friends did it and we had a lot of fun with it," said one graduate of a top journalism graduate program when asked about her work for Demand Media. "We just made fun of whatever we wrote."

"I was completely aware that I was writing crap," she [an antonymous eHow writer] said. "I was like, 'I hope to God people don't read my advice on how to make gin at home because they'll probably poison themselves.'"

Interestingly, Hiar finds that "the successful writers I interviewed made great efforts to conceal their identities while working for the content farm." They didn't care for having their by-lines appearing by their work at all.

The working journalist who previously wrote for Demand is only listed as "an eHow Contributing Writer" on her pieces while Christopher, another Demand freelancer I spoke with who asked to only be identified by his first name, chooses to write under a pen name.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.