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Que tal conhecer a história do “Henry Ford dos vídeos online”?

Plenty of other companies — About.com, Mahalo, Answers.com — have tried to corner the market in arcane online advice. But none has gone about it as aggressively, scientifically, and single-mindedly as Demand. Pieces are not dreamed up by trained editors nor commissioned based on submitted questions. Instead they are assigned by an algorithm, which mines nearly a terabyte of search data, Internet traffic patterns, and keyword rates to determine what users want to know and how much advertisers will pay to appear next to the answers.

By next summer, according to founder and CEO Richard Rosenblatt, Demand will be publishing 1 million items a month, the equivalent of four English-language Wikipedias a year. Demand is already one of the largest suppliers of content to YouTube, where its 170,000 videos make up more than twice the content of CBS, the Associated Press, Al Jazeera English, Universal Music Group, CollegeHumor, and Soulja Boy combined. Demand also posts its material to its network of 45 B-list sites — ranging from eHow and Livestrong.com to the little-known doggy-photo site TheDailyPuppy.com — that manage to pull in more traffic than ESPN, NBC Universal, and Time Warner’s online properties (excluding AOL) put together. To appreciate the impact Demand is poised to have on the Web, imagine a classroom where one kid raises his hand after every question and screams out the answer. He may not be smart or even right, but he makes it difficult to hear anybody else.

The result is a factory stamping out moneymaking content. “I call them the Henry Ford of online video,” says Jordan Hoffner, director of content partnerships at YouTube. Media companies like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AOL, and USA Today have either hired Demand or studied its innovations. This year, the privately held Demand is expected to bring in about $200 million in revenue; its most recent round of financing by blue-chip investors valued the company at $1 billion.

Foda, né? Entenda um pouco mais do funcionamento do código que faz a parada funcionar:

To determine what articles to assign, the formula analyzes three chunks of information. First, to find out what terms users are searching for, it parses bulk data purchased from search engines, ISPs, and Internet marketing firms (as well as Demand’s own traffic logs). Then the algorithm crunches keyword rates to calculate how much advertisers will pay to appear on pages that include those terms. (A portion of Demand’s revenue comes from Google, which allows businesses to bid on phrases that they would like to advertise against.) Third, the formula checks to see how many Web pages already include those terms. It doesn’t make sense to commission an article that will be buried on the fifth page of Google results. Finally, the algorithm, like a drunken prophet, starts spitting out phrase after phrase: “butterfly cake,” “shin splints,” “Harley-Davidson belt buckles.”

But that’s just the start. Armed with those key words, another algorithm, called the Knowledge Engine, dives back into the data to figure out exactly what people want to know about the term. If the original algorithm divines “2009 Chevy Corvette” as a profitable title, the Knowledge Engine will return with “cost of 2009 Corvette”; for “shin splint” it might come back with “equine treatment shin splints.” The second algorithm also looks at how well past titles with similar words have performed in terms of ad revenue. Demand has learned, for instance, that “best” and “how to” bring in traffic or high clickthrough rates, while “history of” is ad poison. At the end of the process, the company has a topic and a dollar amount — the term’s “lifetime value,” or LTV — that Demand expects to generate from any resulting content.

O Google, que não é bobo nem nada, já tá se mexendo:

Volume is also crucial to Demand’s top distribution partner, Google. The search engine has struggled to make money from the 19 billion videos on YouTube, only about 10 percent of which carry ads. Advertisers don’t want to pay to appear next to videos that hijack copyrighted material or that contain swear words, but YouTube doesn’t have the personnel to comb through every user-generated clip. Last year, though, YouTube executives noticed that Demand was uploading hundreds of videos every day — pre-scrubbed by Demand’s own editors, explicitly designed to appeal to advertisers, and cheap enough to benefit from Google’s revenue-sharing business model. YouTube executives approached Demand, asked the company to join its revenue-sharing program, and encouraged it to produce as many videos as possible.

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