The End of Content?

December 1, 2014

Everyone loves a good apocalyptic prophecy. The latest is in regards to ‘Content’, that slippery concept allied to ‘Creatives’, trashing a couple of basic grammatical rules in its attempt to escape too-close a reading.

Basically, content is everything. This is content. And this. Content is words, pictures, songs, videos. Just about the only thing that distinguishes content, I suppose, is that it’s not the Container. The Container, by inference, must be the stuff around the Content. So maybe that header up there is the Container. Though someone might call it Content if they needed to.

How is ‘everything’ dead?

Well, there’s been rumblings for a little while now, but this blog post is mostly in response to an article which finally drew together 11 talking points. Several strands emerged: many worry that there is too much Content in the world (and that they’re contributing too it); others worry that all this extra Content is unmoderated, unedited and poorly sourced, while others (Content marketers, it seems) laugh off the problem, literally.

I’m with the Content Marketers. (I never thought I’d say that.)

A challenge is laid down to Content

What only the (profession-defending) marketers seem to grasp is that there’s always been Too Much Information out there. In the medieval period the things we’d later call the Sciences were held back by a weight of ancient knowledge – Aristotle, the Church – and alchemists and apothecaries had trouble seeing past all this Content. They were buoyed by it, hid behind it, were reassured by its Authority.

Even since the Enlightenment we’ve been inundated with ever-rising mountains of Information, a mixture of good/bad, useful/useless, informative/distracting. Some of it is easy to discern: we know our business pages from our Buzzfeed. But when both sides of the divide are battling to provide us with information, we can become blinded: how do you tell a good Wikipedia article from a bad one when you’re coming to the topic afresh?

The Death of Content is Greatly Exaggerated, but you knew that

It’s not news to state that ‘Content’ isn’t as dead as the commentators might have you think. We’re under a greater deluge of content than ever before, but we’ll find an even bigger tidal wave in the future. The surplus of information is not a new problem, and it’s not going to get solved, ever.

The task for Content marketers is – and has always been – to rise above it.

People will always be looking for quality Content, but will always have trouble finding it amid the junk. What is going to change is the need for writers (let’s stop calling them ‘Content Creatives’ or whatever for one moment) to prove themselves.

There will always be junk purveyors, liars, cranks, quacks and swindlers, but the audience’s desire for quality, helpful, or – yes – entertaining writing still remains.

If Content can stand out as high quality amongst the dregs, then it has a long life ahead of it.

If you’re a writer, your mission…

If you’re worried that your profession is teetering on the edge of destruction, worry not. Just heed this advice:

  • Put yourself on the side of quality (Charlie Brooker felt he wasn’t adding anything useful, so he quit)
  • Stay there – be forever striving to maintain or increase that quality
  • Believe in what you write; write for what you believe in
  • …profit!


The same goes for that much-maligned business model: curation.

OK, so collecting links that you like and putting them in a listicle is hardly ground-breaking. But like Content in general, there are useful ways to do this, and useless, cynical ways. Just make sure you’re being useful, and Content will survive.

Content is still king

Remember that Content is such a catch-all that it encompasses newspapers, magazines, music videos and more. There will always be a demand for it, so as long as you can keep it as relevant and interesting as people need then there’s no reason it can’t be used to market your business, by building trust and showing off knowledge. There’s also the generosity factor – giving stuff away shows an extra angle to your company. I’m biased because I content market my PC repair business in Bristol. Still, it’s what I believe.

Content isn’t dead, but it needs constant attention to stop it from falling ill. As a Content creator, in whatever sense, it’s your job to tend to it.