October 06, 2014

Content: Hiding Behind The C-Word

Here at the Ketel One Conference Center on the campus of The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we're not through ranting about "content." No sir.

There are certain words that make our skin crawl and our brains explode. And "content" is one of them.

"Content" is a meaningless term -- a media contrivance -- invented by bullshit artists to add gravitas and mystery to mundane marketing activities.

It is a phony "discipline" which clever people are monetizing.

It is mostly just the same old web stuff, re-branded.

"Content" is a word that helps web promoters hide what they are doing. They do not say they are creating a newsletter, or a recipe, or an e-mail, or an essay, or a web site, or a game -- they say they are creating "content." It's so much more enchanting (and saleable.)

Posting an online recipe may be useful to a food marketer, but calling it "content" is just pretentious drivel. It's a fucking recipe, okay?

The idea that "content" as a concept is an important marketing discipline is absurd.

An old pizza crust is garbage. But an uploaded picture of an old pizza crust is "content."

By invoking the c-word they are doing what marketing people do best -- avoiding the specific and hiding behind jargon.

According to the most recent data I could find,  Google says that as of July of last year, there were 38 trillion pages on the web. Every page is "content."

And each page may have several individual items of content. For example, on your Facebook page every update is new content. So is every little ad. So is every comment and every photo.

How much total "content" is there on the web? Who the hell knows? But for the sake of simplicity, let's just stick with Google's 38 trillion number.

Now let's go to the blackboard.

If a person were to do nothing her entire life -- no eating, no sleeping, no getting high -- but surf the web for "content" in 1 minute increments, it will take her, on average, 72 million years to get around to your page of "content."

If your content is below average...gosh, it could take a long time.


James Maclean said...

Funnily enough I was talking about exactly this a couple of hours ago.

I find the word intensely insulting to the people who actually create something. "Hey Michelangelo, can you bung some content on the roof for us, don't really care what it is just something to fill that awkward blank space in case someone looks up".

"Stanley we've built this amazing new cinema, people are going to lose their shit over the speakers and chairs. Obviously it's not our top priority but could you quickly knock some content together for us to show in case they get bored of the speakers and seats?".

Everything of interest is now deemed 'content', it's like lorem ipsum has evolved and covers everything meaningful. They've got no bloody idea what the content will be but who cares? The site itself looks fucking beautiful. Apparently the easy bit is creating the lowly content. This ridiculous mindset has come from wed design and spilled into digital and now the industry as a whole.

What's most galling is that they manage to miss the important fact, people go to a site for the 'content', they don't give two shits about the sodding layout or technology. They go to read something interesting, watch something funny, play something cool or listen to something they like. Obviously it's better to downplay that because woe betide an agency who are tasked with creating something interesting and end up producing something no-one ever ends up seeing.

CaliforniaGirl500 said...

the first time I remember being actively aggravated by a new buzzword was when "paradigm shift" became popular in 1989. I prefer the old maxim, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Boopboopadoop said...

Thanks, AC. Is it possible that my own inquiries to you about the "c-word" helped inspire this post?

And James Maclean -- BRAVO! Could not agree more.

Boopboopadoop said...

You hit the nail on the head, James. Couldn't agree more. Why don't we just use lorem ipsum and call it a day?

Marty Jones said...

Content? What's inside.

bob hoffman said...

Nicely done, James

Mark said...

I think you're making something out of nothing.

Content is just a general noun to cover a wide range of things. It can be good or bad. But using the word does not imply that you think all content is equal and interchangeable.

It's like the word food. It could be a gourmet meal. It could be a Whopper with cheese. It doesn't suggest that both are qually tasty.

And saying "and over here, on the buffet table, we'll have some food" does not imply that you don't care what ends up being served for lunch.

James Maclean said...

Yep, it's what happens when we see pure Designers, as opposed to Art Director or Copywriters, promoted to CD/ECD level. I'm afraid it shouldn't be a viable career path outside of a pure design agency. Head of Studio/Design, sure. CD, no way.

Harrovian said...

There's already a perfectly good collective noun for all the stuff that gets put out there: advertising. Anything you do, create, produce, 'curate', source, borrow, 'share', write, post etc because you think it might make people at least a little bit more likely to buy from you at some point is advertising. Not 'content'. And in my experience nobody understands this better than the people being advertised to. They know when they're seeing, hearing, smelling something that's trying to ingratiate a brand with them, whatever form it takes.