post-modernism, coming soon to aol.com?

AOL is helping to spread woo across the web not because it believes in what post modern cargo cult science preaches, but because it doesn't care.
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If you thought that the meanderings of the Huffington Post’s collective of various cranks, quacks, and woo- meisters with too much time on their hands already had too much prominence online, get ready for seeing them five times more often. Former internet giant and current stock market zombie, AOL, just opened its still sizeable wallet to the tune of $315 million for Arianna Huffington’s online tabloid/content farm, and for the chance to name Huffington herself the company’s Editor in Chief. Certainly AOL isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still seeing some 50 million visitors a month compared to HuffPo’s 10 million by a conservative tally, and with the current queen of online woo in charge of content, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Deepak Chopra’s newest inane ramblings featured on a heavily trafficked front page along with another paean to homeopathy bound to drive Orac up a wall by touting a misrepresentation of some NCACM-funded study as proof that magic water can cure whatever ails you with some quantum fluctuation. HuffPo’s tentacles of woo are reaching farther…

Now to be fair, I have to note that AOL isn’t buying $315 million worth of post-modernist woo, nor was it simply taken in by some sinister plot to spread this post-modernist woo to the masses. Primarily, it wants access to what made HuffPo so popular, mainly it’s technique to combine TMZ-styled celebrity gossip, political blogging, content farms that acquire countless links and summaries with today’s relevant search engine keywords, and its roster of celebrities and infamous cranks who write column after column without getting a penny in return, managed by editors handpicked by Huffington to indulge her interest in New Age fluff and trendy post-modern blather. Ultimately, it’s all about the page views. Rather than focusing on having the best content, today’s huge internet portals mostly care about having a lot of content, a torrent of articles, gossip, and how-to guides for a horde of web crawlers to index. The theory is that when your website gives Google a million pages brimming with the right keywords and situated under a trusted, well-established domain, a few million searches a day are just bound to find one of your pages in the top hundred search results. All that traffic ultimately serves one goal: to give advertisers more clicks and maximize the site’s revenues. The quality of the content in that traffic- generating torrent isn’t a big priority. Keywords and popularity are the only things that really count.

Unfortunately, such are the economics of the web. Editors have little use for a high quality article that will only be read by tens of thousands of people. Salacious pictures and vicious gossip read by tens of millions is not only cheaper and faster to publish, but it brings in far more revenue. And so, as much as it may pain the editor, a future celebrity scandal or fiery political outburst which attracts millions of furious partisan dogmatists with the obligatory screaming match in the comments, will take precedence over anything else. Likewise, since woo is profitable and gets plenty of backlinks from both fans and skeptics, and by extension, traffic, the editors have a very strong motivation to keep publishing woo. It’s even worse when the editors in question have a real soft spot for the latest and greatest in New Age pseudoscientific technobabble. Not only will they promote it because its lucrative, they’ll eagerly push it and defend it from criticism out of personal fondness. That’s why the crankery, woo, and post-modernist babble thrive on HuffPo. When asked by users to open a real, genuine science section on her site, Huffington stopped just short of flatly saying that it will never happen, but gave just about every possible indication that the only way her monstrous portal was ever going to cover science was if she was no longer in charge of it. And now she’s extending that attitude to AOL’s massive media holdings…

# science // huffington post / online news / postmodernism / web


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