Demand CEO: ‘We Are So Different From Traditional Journalism’

flickr: Andrew Mason

Demand Media’s CEO has written a manifesto rebutting the critics that have called his company a content mill (and worse). Kara Swisher at AllThingsD has posted it for everyone to read.

In it, Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt makes some good points: “We aren’t here to break news, lay out editorial opinion, or investigate the latest controversy,” he says. “While we love to read The Economist, The Washington Post and Wired–we have little in common with their missions or business models.”

In an interview with Swisher, Rosenblatt added: “What is wrong with coming up with a way for thousands of writers—who have been laid off, by the way, from news organizations—knowing exactly how much they make, selecting their own topics and publishing when they want?”

Swisher agrees:

Demand Media content is simply the basic how-to, guide-of service journalism that really has nothing to do with the investigative work that media giants are finding it harder to fund.

…Demand is, of course, an easy target for a snarky takedown, but is entirely besides the point if you want to really talk about where serious journalism is headed.

She’s right, he’s right. But there are two problems, we find:

1) Serious journalism is in trouble and we want to save it, but so’s service journalism—and DS isn’t doing those writers any favors. We maintain that the rates paid by Demand Studios are not satisfactory for people who write about fashion, parenting, finance, careers, or makeup. And no, reading a parenting article in a glossy magazine isn’t going to change or save the world, but we still believe that those pieces should be reported well and written fairly and accurately. DS’s rates aren’t helping those writers—whom we (perhaps inaccurately) still believe to be journalists, if they follow journalistic principles.

2) Demand Studios is not a springboard back into the industry; maybe it will be in the future but it isn’t now. If you’re a laid-off journalist trying to freelance, you may get regular work through DS and its ilk but it most likely won’t lead to another job. It may be better to take an even lower-paid assignment at a more prestigious publication if your ultimate goal is to get back in the journalism world. Especially if you ultimately want to break news, because even Rosenblatt admits that’s not what his company is about.