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June 07, 2011


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Admit it: You wrote this piece just so you could write that headline, didn't you?

I don't blame you. It's an excellent headline.

Steve C.

Steve, you know I never discuss my process.

Content is what the communication contains. It has nothing to do with the form. Not quite sure what your point is.

My point is that every reference to "content" is, to a writer or a photographer or an artist or a videographer, dispiriting.

Reminds me of the oft-repeated incident when a graphic designer had a half-column to fill and shouted over the cubicle wall, "Dave, you need to write some more shit."

What if we start calling content "shit," instead?

"We have this big fat magazine, but we need some shit to fill it with."

Or, alternatively: "We've got some shit--now, what's the best medium to get it across?"

When I hear "content," it sounds like "shit" to me.

That's all I'm saying.


You also wrote it so you could write that great last sentence, playing on the word content again.

You're a mad genius, and I can't wait until you die so that I can read your memoirs and learn your process.

Steve C.

You must love the new "hot phrase" in communications and social media, then:

"Content Curators."

As communicators, we don't have to CREATE content anymore. We just have to find the best content that other people are creating and make it easy for everyone to find it.

Steve C.

My theory is people started calling it "content" in the hope that it might sound more business-like. All part of the sad communicator's endless struggle to be valued and validated.

"If we keep calling it writing or design, the MBA types upstairs will never take our work seriously. We need to call it something less artsy sounding and more vacuous. I know! Let's call it content. That sounds completely devoid of creativity and talent. It's perfect."

>>My point is that every reference to "content" is, to a writer or a photographer or an artist or a videographer, dispiriting.<<

Well it shouldn't be. There is no good alternative synonym. While "shit" might be appropriate for most PR content, every creative person needs something to fill the envelope.

"Content" as a filler is dispiriting, I agree. Ah- now there's a synonym I hadn't thought of, "filler". Like the stuff they put in products to make them go further. If that's what your'e talking about I agree 100%.

The medium is the message does not mean that either the medium or the message is the content.

Some months ago, Sweetland apparently went on a Sweetlandic rant on the subject of "curate" being used as a verb, causing a rookie Ragan editor to piss in his corduroys.

You know, there's an old term for content curators.



@ Peter: The overuse of "content" CREATES the impression and expectation that all the world is a medium, and that the words and images we mark ARE filler.

The writers are "content providers" and the audience is "content consumers."

Honestly, if I keep talking about this, Steve, you may get your wish re. my early demise.

>>The writers are "content providers" and the audience is "content consumers."<<

That's just debasing the idea of real content/substance. Americans like these coinages for some reason. Like "human resources" or all the rest too numerous to mention. I think (although I could be very wrong) that they are much less common in Europe.

The ultimate humiliation for today's writers is what's become known as the "content farm," a place in cyberspace where writers have the same social status as the itinerant sharecroppers in The Grapes of Wrath. Listen to this superb radio documentary about the plight of today's freelance writer. Content has, sadly, become a cheap and plentiful commodity in the online world. http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/documentaries/2011/02/27/content-on-demand/

Ron, thanks for sending that. Peter, that's what's wrong with "content."

I really didn't have a problem with the word "content" as a catch-all for what we communicators (of all stripes) produce -- until I read Ron's last line. I think that's why it's so dispiriting. Content has become a commodity. There's just so much of it out there.

And it saddens me that the next evolution of internal communicator seems to be that of "content curator." I first heard this term months ago and I've introduced it to one of my clients, who is cutting back on internal communication, or at least the creation of it. I see "content curation" as a viable new role, but one I don't particularly like. Such is life in the age of social media, I guess.

The odious term aside, I'm not troubled by "curation" in theory: As long as the "curator" is dedicated to bringing truly useful, thought-provoking and interesting stuff to employees.

I spent a decade "curating" industry news for a company's workforce DAILY. I cared about the quality of what I gave them, and I found the job, while not terribly creative, at least very agreeable.

The other key to "curation": It can't be the ONLY thing you do. Even Huffington Post has SOME of their own writers and reporters, along with Ariana herself, to anchor the thing.

For years, I've been arguing with a well-known publisher about the importance of having a strong, iconic home voice amid all the curated stuff, however good.

He doesn't understand.

He will, someday.

Hi David...interesting take. Here are my thoughts.

- I probably agree with you on just the word "content". Content is pretty much any pixel or piece of information going anywhere in any form.
- That's why I like to use the term content marketing. It's using information we create and curate to attract and retain customers. I much prefer that over custom content, which really could be anything. For decades, marketers have been using branded content, custom content, custom publishing and more to refer to content marketing...but really what we are talking about is developing compelling information to move our business (ala marketing).
- The industry needs to call what we do something, and my take is that content marketing is the best term for that. The industry will go farther if we start talking the same language and start thinking of content marketing as something that can cut through the clutter (as commented above) and truly develop something meaningful for customers.

Thanks for continuing the conversation.

Joe, thanks for your perspective; I'll look to learn a lot more Content Marketing World in Sept.

I thank thee that I am none of the wheels of power but I am one with the living creatures that are crushed by it.

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