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Here’s a fascinating story about digital media, and the use of Search Engine Optimization, from Digiday. Take the humor site, Funny Or Die:

On its surface, the site would have little to do with adult content. Some of its videos might be a bit tawdry, but that’s all. Then, start to do some risque searches. “Sex”: Funny or Die shows up as the first Google result. “Tits”: the site is top of the pile again. Even “rape videos” returns Funny or Die. The listings are auto-generated topic pages Funny or Die produces as part of an aggressive SEO strategy. It’s not exactly a shocker to the publisher, however. After all, ComScore reports that six of its 10 top search-term referrals for March were sex-related, including “sex,” “XXX,” “boobs,” “tits,” “sexy” and “rape videos.” In fact, “sex” searches drove more traffic to the site than “Funny or Die” queries.

Because of the SEO techniques used by Funny Or Die, landing pages are automatically generated for thousands of terms, including “rape videos” and even “gang rape.” Searches for some of those terms drives significant traffic to the site.

And Velveeta gets to advertize itself next to a bunch of “gang rape” material. What’s striking to me is how completely shameless the site’s “editorial” remains about this. Funny Or Die’s COO Mitch Galbraith is quoted thus:

“The content itself is clean content; it’s just a function of the fundamental SEO our site does.”

The site “just does” this. And no one is responsible? No one decided to do this? No one actively set up a system so that searches for “tits” gets Funny or Die a click and a pageview and a little bit of moolah from an ad impression? Yeah, right. Look: these are editorial choices, driven by desperate need for ad revenue; they are not automatic. But increasingly, the act of editing is entirely being out-sourced to algorithms and search engines. Which means there is no editing at all. Just “tits” and “rape videos”.