“Not really,” was the reply.

This is roughly what internal communications at The Audit are like. Me: “Please, Sir, might we interface for a few moments sometime soon to share ideas and exchange views about the large issues of the day? You know, chew the fat, blue-sky about this and that, run things up the old flag pole, perhaps think a bit?” Dean: “Think? About what? Keep typing, helot.”

And so I type. But my lame jokes aren’t so amusing in light of the growing body of mini-memoirs sprouting up around the Web about life down on the content farm, including Nicholas Spangler’s piece last year for CJR and Jessanne Collins’s for The Awl, which pulled this gem from Demand Media’s manifesto:

“We aren’t here to break news, lay out editorial opinion, or investigate the latest controversy. Our audience tells us they want incredibly specific information and we deliver exactly that —in a style that the average consumer appreciates and understands.”

The Demand Medias and AOLs are the logical result of a digital arms race triggered by the harsh realities of a Web marketplace that makes it all but impossible to make money doing serious journalism. The Awl and a few others are trying to fight the race to the bottom, but that Demand quote shows what we’re all up against.

* I added “earlier this year” here to answer a reader comment on when The AOL Way document came to light

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.