Stop Calling it Content

It’s official. The push for “content” has pervaded society so completely that I had this actual conversation with my 10 year old the other day:

10 Yr Old: “Mom, no-one is visiting my website.”
Me: “I visited it just yesterday.”
10 Yr Old: “I think I need to make more content.”

Boom. Throw down the microphone and walk off stage.

assembly line

There has been a robust conversation surrounding the sheer amount of “content” debris (go read Mark Schaefer’s original Content Shock post), but I think the larger issue has to do with the attitude of the “content” creator.

I propose that we just stop calling it “content,” and whip out some Barron’s vocabulary words to describe what we’re doing instead.

  • Research paper
  • Investigative journalism
  • Marketing video
  • Customer photos
  • Online brochure or catalog
  • Case studies
  • Interviews
  • Company news item

See where I’m going with this?

One result will be that we ourselves recognize when we’re writing sales copy vs telling a story. If you call it “content,” it could be anything.

If you call it what it is, maybe it shifts your point of view as a creator. You are no longer a robot on the assembly line, you are an artist, a designer, a writer.

It’s the difference between mass-produced frozen fish sticks and fresh-caught grilled trout.

Your homework today, should you choose to accept it, is to go through your marketing plan, campaign strategy, and/or social media plan and highlight everywhere it says “content.” Replace that word with phrases and words that mean something to your customers.

Are you content with “content?”

Author’s Bio: Rosemary O’Neill is an insightful spirit who works for social strata — a top ten company to work for on the Internet . Check out the Social Strata blog. You can find Rosemary on Google+ and on Twitter as @rhogroupee

Photo Credit: jamesjyu via Compfight cc


  1. says

    I look at it this way: say that you have a manufacturing company. When you’re telling people about your business, how do you answer the question “What do you make?”

    I’m pretty sure that the answer won’t be “Stuff.”

    The word “content” is as descriptive and abstract as “stuff.” Abstraction can be useful, but we need to move down the ladder of abstraction more often.

  2. says

    Content; yes that word has come up a lot recently. I think most of the time people think they have to upload loads of stuff on a page to make it look full. It is a generic term and has far too many implications for people to grasp. The way I juggle ‘content’ is to think about what I want to discuss on my site and then think of the best way to portray that information; whether it be a written article, a video, a selection of pictures, an interview, a slide show, whatever.

  3. says

    Perhaps I have misunderstood your point.

    But I think your proposition “that we just stop calling it “content,” and whip out some Barron’s vocabulary words to describe what we’re doing instead.” oversimplifies the point that Mark Schaefer was trying to make in his article about the future implications of Content Shock.

    I think he brings to the forefront a real concern that the popularity of content marketing could create a “bubble” which it turn may act as a barrier to market penetration in some industries and may eventually force small businesses to pay to play.

    Whether or not this phenomenon will in fact become manifest in the future is another issue. Perhaps the google algorithms may simply change to reward content curation and re-purposing or otherwise coerce new behaviour.

    Sill the question of the longterm effect of content overload on consumers and the cost of marketing is worthy of analysis and contemplation of a counter response, particularly among small businesses that are most likely to be adversely affected if in fact this comes to pass.

    Already Facebook has raised the cost of marketing and is demonstrating how easily the rules of the game could change. So that what was once free may soon come only at a premium.

  4. says

    Emily, exactly. I agree with you that the word “content” has come to mean “stuff” for a lot of people.

    SBOS, I think that content shock as Mark described it is more likely if marketers keep going down the path of blindly uploading “content,” (ie, “stuff”). My point is that we need a mindset shift, from producing “stuff,” to meeting our customers’ needs, whether it’s in the form of text, photos, video, phone calls, tutorials, etc.

  5. says

    Markets have shifted to content marketing because according to google’s assessment (since they reward it) that’s what online viewers are demanding. It I don’t think anyone foresaw the explosion in content which this would create. I think that if this continues it will lead to a system overload. Both on humans and the technological infrastructure that sustains it. I think the algorithms will again response and reward new behavior and online marketers will again adapt their seo and growth strategies. What that adaptation will be is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it will include some kind of curation and re-purposing. But eventually the “content shock” and consumer burn out will lead to more selective consumption of content and a shift in online marketing techniques and strategies.

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