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The Scoop on Demand

leaf-group-sucksHowdy all! 

Hope everything is going well. So now it’s official – this site outlasted Demand media. LOL. Too bad we didn’t sell shares. Apparently Demand tried to pull the game where they changed their spots.

They’re called The Leaf Group now and – coincidentally – rang the opening bell on the US Stock Exchange just this week

Anyone out there want to buy leafgroupsucks.com and direct it this way? 

So it seems fitting right now that we got this interesting email from someone in the know and we’re putting it up here for your perusal. 

Hey guys! I know we’re all on the same wavelength with regard to Demand sucking big time, but the disrespect, lack of communication, crappy pay, etc. aside, I’m not sure if you’re aware of the actual beginning of Demand and how it managed to take down one of the earliest legitimate SEO companies in Los Angeles? Yes, I’ve held a grudge for almost a decade.

In 2004, I accepted an editorial contract for a really decent LA-based SEO company. All was well for the first few years. In 2006, we started hearing whispers about a potential major client who had just acquired a few websites and was looking to relaunch with fresh, genuine, well-written content.

At first, the contract didn’t disappoint. We were so overwhelmed with work from this new client, Demand Media, that we had to recruit more writers and slow down on additional client acquisition. Most of the requests dealt with populating eHow, Livestrong, and one of the company’s travel sites. The titles were based on things one could imagine people actually searching for information about online. Our writers earned around $10 per 250 words for traditional client pages, but if I remember correctly, the rate was around $15-20 for Demand content. Everyone was earning well and having fun. Demand was pleased and continued throwing thousands of pages per week our way.

In 2007, things started getting weird. We were flooded with DM titles, but they were increasingly bizarre. Many of them weren’t even grammatically correct, but our writers were instructed (on occasion) to use the title verbatim four times in the content. We worked with Demand to develop a dedicated style guide at this point since the demands changed depending on the person reviewing the content. The company was also heavily relying on our tech and client services teams for guidance.

By early 2008, the situation was almost unbearable. The titles our writers received were flat-out ridiculous (such as “How to Make Ice Cubes in a Freezer” — mindful of the 4-step minimum, with each step beginning with an action verb, and the mandatory tips & tricks at the bottom) or borderline dangerous (“How to Make Rocket Fuel at Home”).
We were criticized for not issuing enough full rewrites or coming down hard enough on our writers. Demand feedback encouraged us to be harsh and demeaning to writers, who were genuinely trying their best to create something readable from absurd titles. On occasion, we got scathing emails for not notifying the content development team about crazy titles. When we tried to point out certain subjects weren’t suitable, we got scathing emails to “deal with it.” It was a no-win situation by that point.

Mid-2008, we were informed that DM was terminating our contract effective immediately. All unfinished work was pulled. That was pretty messed up, but the worst was the announcement that our tech and client services teams, as well as some mid-level managers, would be leaving and joining DM. Just like that. Editors and writers were not asked to join and were actually discouraged from applying.

The company limped along for a few more months. New team members were hired, but it was a large blow designed to take out a potential competitor, and that’s exactly what it did. In 2009, the company folded. Some of our former team members applied at DM and were accepted as long as they didn’t mention their previous employer, but stories of bizarre titles and inconsistent style guidelines/reject/rewrite demands filtered back to the majority. One particularly absurd interaction involved a Demand editor telling one of our former editors that she obviously didn’t know or follow the style guide. And obviously, the Demand editor didn’t realize she was writing to one of the original authors of said style guide. That rewrite request was passed around our team for a laugh, but we never could figure out what the exact problem was.

No, it’s not all on Demand. But I can tell you that even 10+ years ago, they were nasty pieces of work. In the beginning, we were all thinking about job security and paying the bills. In that respect, the contract seemed like a godsend. In retrospect, I think it cheapened our brand. We weren’t considered a content mill prior to 2007/8, and the association actually made it very, very difficult to find a serious, decent-paying job afterward.

I’ve enjoyed watching the decline of Demand for the past few years, but it seems like it just keeps evolving into some increasingly abhorrent version of itself. But knowing its history of using, mistreating, and discarding people, I’m not surprised such an unscrupulous company would find a way to keep going.

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