I don’t blame businesses like Suite101, Demand Media and even (shock) Huffington Post for using low- or no-pay methods to entice writers to produce searchable articles. It’s the way the SEO game works. But that doesn’t make it a good thing.
For the PR/Marketing world to compete with this quantity of content and not be crushed by the sheer amount of articles, the answer is not to produce more content of your own. That’s akin to competing in a price war in which no one, except Wal-Mart, will win.
The secret is to create better content that’s shareable, original and about the very people you’re trying to reach. While sharing certainly hasn’t surpassed searching as a way of gathering information, most of the upper-echelon content seems like it’s being shared in massive quantities FIRST and then rising in search rankings as the result of so much link sharing.
Have you used material from these content farms for clients? Have you produced content for them? Is it worth it?