Like Plain Yogurt
Miriam-Webster defines “content” in part as:
“the topics or matter treated in a written work”
“the principal substance (such as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a website”.
In using the word according to this definition, almost anything could be classified as such. With the rise of the modern internet over the past twenty years, we’ve seen what were previously commonplace things turned into “content” because they took advantage of this new distribution channel.
Articles became “blogs”. Radio shows became “podcasts”.
People were emboldened by the realities of this new model, as there were no longer obstacles or gatekeepers. All they had to do was call their work something, and the internet (at least, in theory) provided an audience.
Which leads us to today.
The internet is absolutely flooded with content, across more channels than we could reasonably imagine. We’ve even reached a point where there are no non-digital analogues for some types of content, i.e. social media (to try to compare it to face-to-face meetings would be both sloppy and reasonably inaccurate).
It was Milton Friedman who originally said,
“When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition.”
This quote has been altered many times over the years, and with apologies to Mr. Friedman, I’m going to do so again.
When everything is content, nothing is.
“Content” has become a meaningless buzzword, a stock, vague identifier that what has been created either has value or is intended to have value. Loaded and bloated, its associations are such that it could mean a million different things to a million different people with precious little overlap.
Yes, there are many different types of content.
No, despite the life raft you need to navigate the waters of low-quality work in this ocean we call the internet, I’m not arguing against the potential of content.
However, I strongly believe that so long as all of these disparate works are referred to as simply “content”, it will continue to be viewed as equal parts of the same homogenized lump.
An appropriately bland example would be plain yogurt. A healthy and nutritious meal, to be sure. Under the right circumstances, perhaps even delightful, but is it really what you want to have every day, for every meal?
Your brand cannot get ahead by simply creating content. It can get ahead by writing wonderful articles, creating clever videos, and fostering a genuine connection with your audience. That your goal is revenue does not give you permission to treat them as mindless drones, ready and willing to consume whatever it is you put out into the ether.
We may be locked in a battle for attention with a roaring crowd, but there are better ways to be heard above the din than by screaming more loudly.
If you enjoyed this piece, maybe you’d like to work with me?