[Insert content here]

What’s missing when we talk about content?

I saw Phill Jupitus at a storytelling event last week (him off Never Mind the Buzzcocks). As part of his tale, he spoke about how he used to work in the music industry, in the back office for Billy Bragg’s record company. He loved music but the industry killed him inside. He put this down to the fact that if you were in the industry, you didn’t call it music. You called it product.

The beautiful songs and compositions that people had created. The melodies and harmonies that touched people’s souls. It was all just product.

The advertising industry has a similar problem. We call it content. The catch-all term for stuff that’s used to promote whatever it is you’re selling.

I’ve been in plenty of meetings where I’m told that I have to create ‘some content’ to go on a page of a website. And I look around and everyone seems very interested and nods along vigourously.

It reminds me of when I was doing my own poor quality stand-up comedy. Many’s the time I would write a long, rambling yet whimsical story, then have a big gap at the end where I’d scrawl [insert joke here].

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this:

Sometimes, we don’t care or think enough about what it is we’re trying to say. We just want to build something that looks nice then hope for the best by telling the client we’ll [insert content here].

So what do we do? As with all these problems, the answer is by going back to basics and asking some simple questions.

Like what are we trying to achieve? Why would anyone want to look at this “content”? What is its purpose? What do we want people to think after they’ve watched or read it? What would we like them to do next? How do we encourage them to do that action? And, when it comes to building a website — why should that content sit there in the first place?

Overall though, I just think we need to stop calling it content. By masking it in a pseudo technological catch-all term, it allows us to be abstract about what we actually mean, without focusing on what it is and what it does. You might as well call it ‘stuff’.

And maybe by doing that, we can demystify what we’re doing and get people thinking about the purpose behind the whole thing.

If someone told you that we were going to put stuff on your website, you might ask “what sort of stuff?” and “who is going to produce this stuff?” All very pertinent questions. And ones we should be asking ourselves if our clients aren’t going to do it for us.

Because, we should be inviting that questioning, shouldn’t we? We should have to justify and analyse what we do. Because by inviting more questions, maybe we can actually create some ‘stuff’ that people might want to watch, read or god forbid, act upon.