When journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen discusses Demand Media and its business model, he always includes the parenthetical adjective demonic. Demand Media is the answer to the question, what would Internet content look like if it was entirely and solely driven by advertising revenue? Content is commissioned based on an algorithm that calculates the lifetime value of the ads that could be run against it.
Demand Media takes the routinization of knowledge work to its logical extreme. (For those with a Marxist bent, is there any clearer example of the knowledge worker alienated from the products of his labor than Christian Muñoz-Donoso, from Rosen’s first link?) And Demand Media expects to be producing “the equivalent of four English-language Wikipedias a year” by next summer.
Wikipedia and other free culture projects, sometimes pejoratively described as “crowdsourcing” projects, have been criticized for undermining the economic viability of traditional, professionally produced media. But what if the real choice for the future is not between the Wikimedia model and the traditional media model, but between the Wikimedia model and the Demand Media model? Media driven by love versus media driven by money. Editor-driven media where everyone is an editor versus demand-driven media where no one is an editor. Media built from soul versus media with no soul.