by Anne Converse Willkomm
What is content? Content is anything and everything we read and listen to online or in print. Content is the expression of thoughts, ideas, and data presented through various mediums, such as text, audio, video, animation, and graphic images. Content is created, curated, and managed. In today’s digital world, content is everything!
Before the digital wave, content existed as text and images on a printed page. There was only one time-tested way to create the words, ideas, and images: through the author’s imagination and contribution. An author came up with an idea, an author wrote the words on the page, the words were edited into a meaningful and functional form, an author sold it to a publisher, and a publisher published it for a consumer to purchase.
Today, however, content is created and used across mediums we couldn’t conceive of 20 years ago. Sure, there are still printed books – and in my opinion, print books aren’t going away (as Stephen Fry said, “The book is no more threatened by a Kindle than stairs are threatened by an escalator.”). But today there are ebooks, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, podcasts, webinars, blogs, and so much more. Every word, image, audio clip, graphic, and video is content.
In this digital age, it is incredibly easy to create content. I can set up a website in a matter of minutes. What I put on that website is content. I can upload a novella and create an ebook in minutes, too. The ability to get content into the world for the consumer – or the “target audience” – is quick and easy. However, do not confuse ability with quality, creativity, or accuracy.
Whether creating a website to promote an author or a car, those who create the content must strive for the three goals mentioned above. The creator must understand the target audience, the product/company mission, market, etc. And that content cannot be left to stagnate. Content must be continually updated so the consumer (a reader, a viewer, a listener, or an actual purchaser) has something fresh and new to consider on a regular basis.
Authors, publishers, and other companies often have dedicated content curators who gather and cultivate content that others create. This can, and often does, create authenticity. Content curation is what content managers do to drive and enhance SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which ultimately makes it easier for consumers to find a website. Managers work closely with marketing and sales teams to develop the appropriate balance of free content versus paid content. Newspaper companies forced to go digital have struggled with this dilemma.
The ease of creating content has formed new job positions and will likely create more. New issues and questions will arise: Who owns the content? Who should receive monetary compensation? Companies, such as Google, MySpace, and Sony, struggle with these legal issues. I am certain there will be more concerns regarding intellectual property and liability laws as we all struggle to define, understand, and manage content.