In 2007, two years into the launch of the Huffington Post, cofounder Jonah Peretti coined a term for news sites that disguise how little investment actually goes into most of their content: the mullet strategy. Named after a much-mocked hairstyle that's short and neat in front but long and unkempt in back, mullet strategists maintain a spiffy, well-groomed front page they can show to advertisers while serving most of their actual page views on a constellation of low-quality discussion boards, sexed-up celebrity news bits and user- or auto-generated content.
But the mullet could soon get clipped. A change in the way Google ( GOOG - news - people ) ranks news stories in its ubiquitous search system not only threatens to devalue the lucrative dark arts of increasing online readership--from search engine optimization to aggregation and content farming--but also promises a boost for the besieged newspaper industry, which Google helped to destroy in the first place.
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