The lead of a clip-art-illustrated piece on foreclosures explains:
"If you can no longer afford your mortgage payments, you aren't alone."
A stock photo of a calculator, meanwhile, hovers over an article on
home loans that begins: "Mortgages have different interest rates and
terms that determine how much a homeowner must pay each month."
Did the Chron replace
its news staff with fourth grade book report writers? Close. It's
contracted the notorious content farm Demand Media to provide filler for an online real estate section in hopes of cutting costs while still pushing real estate ads.
short article, while legitimate newspapers used to pay freelancers $300 back in the good old print-industry-solvency days of a decade ago. For pieces adapted especially for the Chronicle account, Demand Media reportedly paid writers a premium.
specific interests and [offers] connections to people that share their
passion. To do this well, and at scale, has required significant
innovation and investment," Richard Rosenblatt said in a Dec. 2009 interview.
But Rosenblatt is now regarded as a full of shit even by people amenable to the idea of squeezing employees for every last dime. Last week, journalists examining Demand Media's planned IPO filings revealed Rosenblatt had made repeated bogus statements about his company's so-called profitability.
According to a SFGate.com vice president, however, paying Demand Media for mass-produced dreck is good for the Chronicle and good for its staff reporters.
"This provides us with additional revenue opportunities that we can use
to support our core newsroom," Michele Slack, veep of digital media for SFGate.com told Ad Age. "These partnerships are about bringing in additional users and
incremental revenue. All of that is to support our core business and the
newsroom is an integral part of that."
Judging from Slack's business school jargon-filled performance, one would think the "new revenue opportunities" were the result of some sort of innovation.
We "provide our users with a breadth of valuable content that we couldn't if
we were not partnering," Slack effused.
But putting the Chronicle brand name atop assembly-line pablum is nothing new in the annals of corporate strategy. It's known as brand dilution, a form of throwing in the towel that involves allowing your good name to go to pot for short-term profit.
Remember how GM refashioned the Olds Firenza as the Cadillac Cimarron, and was subsequently replaced by Lexus as the generic term for luxury car? Or how the decimation of Levi's once-hallowed brand culminated in Wal-Mart's "Signature by Levi Strauss & Co." line?
Add to that list a news organization that once employed Herb Caen, and now publishes articles that begin with the sentence: "Renting may have its advantages, but it isn't beneficial as a long-term
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