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Hating “Content” is now a Thing

Digital Directions OnlineNewspapers are still fighting for respect in the digital age of news, but picking nits – regarding the way some people in the news and digital agency worlds refer to content – is going in the wrong direction.

Marty Baron, the well-respected Washington Post editor was recently quoted in a NiemanLab article by the always-critical Ken Doctor, saying:

I hate the word content, which is infiltrated our profession. You have people who are called chief content officers and things like that. I don’t like the word content. To me, it’s like saying the word “stuff.” It has no meaning, whereas journalism actually does have meaning.

Baron’s point of course is that the work and effort that goes into a WAPO story is more than just a bunch of text on a page. It’s well-researched, edited, and published work that people should pay money to receive.

But looking down your nose at how people in the content strategy industry (like me) look at content makes him, and his newspaper, look a bit out-of-touch and destined to lose a chance at reaching that younger audience.

True, some people even outside newspapers don’t like the word, like Anne Cizek McColl, who says:

Content is something that fills a box.


Content commoditizes creativity.

Then there is Bob Hoffman, who in his blog the Ad Contrarian equates referring to your work as just “content” as cheapening.

Content is anything you can upload to the web. In other words, it is pretty much anything.

It is a Shakespeare sonnet and a picture of my cat’s ass.

It bestows value on anything, and in so doing, debases everything.

To me, content more than just the base-level of what you publish, but you need to be able make that critical view of what you do publish. That’s what makes content more than just text on a printed page or screen of any size.