Friday, November 25, 2011

"Content" is a horrible word

Various thoughts that rattle around in my head and in my draft posts list have coalesced as I've come across a new online magazine. (Did I manage to sidestep Rule 1? You judge.)

I clearly remember the first time that the word content made me mentally shudder. I was listening to Scot Mills who was doing a prank call to some of his colleagues in BBC Radio 1. The woman who answered the phone said to one of her colleagues when she'd worked out what was going on, "It's probably Scott because he needs more content for his show". What? I thought. All that stuff he does with interviews on Stupid Street and Becky's contest with that other guy and "What's Becky's forte", all that is just "content".

The trouble with hearing it described like that is that it made me think about how Scott, and Chris Moyles too, come up with all that, er, content. So they probably sit around in meetings and come up with ideas and send people off with tape recorders to do vox pops or edit all the times that Brian Cox says "millions" on his TV show. Well of course that's how it gets there, but are they doing it just because they want more content? Don't they want to entertain us?

For me, the word "content" makes me think of content farms. As I have technical oversight of a website content farms represent the enemy people who we want to do better than in search engine results. By getting people, by whatever means, to churn out content, to get high in search engines results and get clicks and adverts, they are filling up the results making it harder for the rest of us doing a more noble job to get seen.

I recently heard a clip of Eric Schmidt in the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Media festival talking about content (I know it was a few months ago) to broadcasters. (It has to be said though, all credit to Google for trying to free the search engine results from content farms.) So you mean all that wonderful documentary and drama and comedy is just content? Shudder.

A couple of relevant references:
Craigmod says
"Content" is such a horrid word, but it's what we've got.
That magazine I referred to at the top
We must understand the complex relationship between “the content” and “the business.”
Update: Here's a good blog post by Tim Bray about what's wrong with the word - Discontent