Demand and Google leave farm fight behind with “premium” YouTube channels

It was only about 14 months ago that Google (s GOOG) made headlines for targeting Demand Media (s DMD) with algorithmic pesticides, classifying the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company’s freelancer-produced content as farmed material created specifically to game its search engines.

Contrast this with Wednesday’s launch of Demand’s latest “premium” video channel on Google’s YouTube platform, eHow Pets. Overnight, Demand seems to have evolved from pestilent content farm into trusted partner, with YouTube now funding three Demand-produced video channels through its premium content initiative.

Demand Media has been programming content from its legions of video bloggers on YouTube since 2007, and now touts a total audience of more than 7 million unique users on the platform per month, with over 3.6 billion views, according to comScore.

However, beyond eHow Pets, and also including the previously launched eHow Home and Livestrong Women, Demand’s premium channel entries seem incongruous with what you’d expect from the publicly traded company’s traditionally distributed workflow — which features thousands of nameless freelance content producers filing service articles and videos for compensation that might, if they shop carefully, cover their lunch bill.

For example, one of the more prominent personalities on eHow Pets is Victoria Stilwell, a British dog trainer and author who — while not approaching the fame of the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan — has appeared on various CBS and Animal Planet pet-themed shows. Meanwhile, a new series on the eHow Pets channel, the ironically titled Farm Raised, is hosted by P. Allen Smith, who Demand officials call the “Martha Stewart of the Midwest” even though he’s from Tennessee. He’s a well-known gardening expert who once had his own weekly syndicated home-improvement/lifestyle show.

Sure, these are not A-list talents, but they’re not laid-off newspaper writers filing stories for $15 a pop out of their apartments, either.

Demand CMO Joanne Bradford said that video content for Demand’s three premium channels is produced out of the company’s Santa Monica studios. She would not disclose, however, how many full-time staffers are involved behind the scenes with  production for these channels.

With Google introducing big-name sponsors like Toyota to Demand’s premium video offerings, the company’s studio is presumably enticing talent and production staff with compensation that exceeds content farm levels.

“We’ve changed our model,” Bradford conceded. “Our goal is to pay as much as we can to create the best piece of content out there.”