My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at content, a ubiquitous word with a long history and some specific contemporary senses.
Full access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
What are you reading right here, right now? A sentence? A paragraph? An article? Yes, yes, and yes, but think more globally and generally. In the universe of 21st-century media and marketing, these words on this website, and the image that accompanies them, are content.
And not only here on the Visual Thesaurus: content is all around. As the old dishwashing-liquid ad used to tell us, we’re soaking in it. Blog posts are content. YouTube videos are content. For the cookware retailer Williams-Sonoma, recipes are content. For General Electric and thousands of other companies, Instagram posts are content. White papers, graphs, podcasts, webinars, e-books: all content.
Content is produced by content creators and content providers, some of whom toil in content farms or content factories. It's distributed through content management systems and shaped by content strategists who may report to a chief content officer for whom content marketing is — as the business author Seth Godin put it in 2008 — “the only marketing that’s left.”
Read the rest of “The Character of Our Content.”
Blog bonus #1: Read a job description for chief content officer. (“Ultimately, the job of the CCO is to think like a publisher/journalist, leading the development of content initiatives in all forms to drive new and current business.”)
Blog bonus #2: Some people really, really dislike the way content is currently used. Here’s a 10-year-old post by Adam Bowie, who says content “is somehow dismissive. There’s no real thought about the quality of what’s being uploaded or written; just the knowledge that some of it’s needed to attract readers, viewers or listeners. There is space or airtime to fill, and on the internet, that space is effectively infinite, while in the broadcasting world you can always start a new channel or stream.”
And here’s speed-talker Mike Rugnetta for the PBS Idea Channel on why he dislikes the word content.
Blog bonus #3: Content has its own meaning in the world of education. Read about “content-focused curriculum” in an excerpt from Natalie Wexler’s book The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System—And How to Fix It.