I’m Not Content with Content

Plastic containers cleaned before recycling
Christopher G. Fox

I use the word “content” easily a dozen times on an average day, but I don’t like it. It conveys an underlying belief that websites, databases, and electronic files are containers just waiting for something to come along and fill them, like stuffing in a pillow or mud in a hole.

But the hole is the mud, the pillow is the stuffing, and the content is the digital experience. Content is more than some resource meant to fill an empty space. The word is reductive.

Regardless it doesn’t make sense to come up with a different phrase and then explain it continuously. I have yet to find a synonym that people grasp quite so immediately. Sometimes we just get stuck with vague, imperfect words. It’s just a couple of syllables, after all. So what?

I still don’t like it. I always feel an ever-so tiny twinge when I use it. Maybe the compromise is to use the word when needing to discuss it with others, but then think of what I am doing in terms other than “content strategy” or “content creation.” I can enjoy the process of shaping and articulating ideas that advocate for change without having to use such a long phrase in conversations with other people–focus on the process and the goal without worrying about what to call it.

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