‘Content’, the clinical term for someone else’s art

The word “content” is a clinical term for someone’s art.

It is used much as a surgeons use the word “tissue” for describing someone else’s  skin.  Its clinical, and doesn’t speculate about its own value. Its a variable that can mean nearly anything, and as such its no more a compliment than noting someone has “great tissue.” ;>

In the last month, I’ve been in conversations in which content has been:

Stanley Bing wrote that “Content is a fancy piece of terminology for…anything people consume with any of their sensory organs, other than their taste buds. Soup, for example, is not content. But a video of soup can be.”


Having fed content machines, sometimes with large teams of writers and SEO tricksters, I’ve come to doubt the adage ‘Content is King”. Context and credibility seem more like king makers to me.  They live quite separate from content in the minds of consumers. Customers who give a damn are what has always counted in business. Depending on the customer, we might want to give them any of the data listed above digitally.

That’s when content strategy kicks in. It provides the industrial design needed to scale and maintain useful, usable content.  Content may be broken in to manageable chunks, translated, appended with useful information, and organized in to collections or easy to search repositories. Rules might be established for its distribution by channel, or its targeting as part of personalized experiences.


Digital experiences begin as customer strategy, which are digitally executed in content strategy and engineering.  Soup may not be content, but its cost and description and reviews by diners may be. If its done right, no one will notice taxonomies or atomic design. It will just look like good soup. As is true of good design, the best content strategy keeps its content on center stage.

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