What is content?
I was referred to an article the other day titled ‘31 awesome ways to improve your fitness’. Number one was “Make your workout as awesome as you can.”
There was no elaboration.
I didn’t get past number 4.
What’s that got to do with the price of milk?
Well, what I’m referring to above is a form of content. Exceptionally bad content. But that’s just one example. What is content in a more general sense? For the answer to that question, I went to one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject: me.
What is “content”?
That’s a complex and multifaceted question that doesn’t lend itself to being answered within a short blog, but I’ll try because I’m immensely courageous and want only the best for you, dear readers.
In 2016 “content” is a synonym for “stuff”.
Is that it?
“Content” is one of those words that gained popularity so quickly, people fell over themselves, and the bodies of others – some dead from suffocation and trampling – to start using it. They believed there was no time to stop and consider what it truly meant or in what context it should be used – they just went for it, hard and fast like two lab rats in a sex hormone experiment.
What happened to “content” is the same thing that’s happened to so many perfectly good words over the last 20 or 30 years. It was overused into meaninglessness. At very best, meaning still hangs to the word by a thread, but that meaning is entirely different depending on the person you ask for a definition.
What everyone agrees on, however, is that it’s hugely important and enormously valuable.
So, if content is just stuff, it logically follows, then, that as long as you’re dealing with stuff in your job, you’re essentially a content officer, no matter what the official title of your job is.
This brings us to the next highly involved question. Do you deal with stuff in your job?
Do I deal with stuff in my job?
Yes, you do.
But hold on a second –
No, we’re not going to argue about it. If you think that assertion is worthy of contention you need to ask yourself whether you’re in fact employed at all.
Or alive. (Could you have been killed in the initial content stampede, for example, and not yet know it?)
In any case, there’s nothing to debate. If you work, you deal with stuff. And if you deal with stuff, you’re a content officer. And because content is hugely important and enormously valuable, you’re in one of the most important jobs in the world.
Quick, put it on your resume.
But I don’t know how to produce content
OK, no worries. Here’s my not-quite-so-niche-as-you-first-thought guide to good, or at least passable, content.
The Haught Guide to Passable Content
Now, I would be a hypocrite (what with my lavatory obsession, my reliance on stories from my time at Burwood Smorgy’s and penchant for absurd tangents) if I told you that every piece of content you produce needs to be overflowing with wisdom and profundity.
But if you’re going to produce content (and as I’ve assured you, that’s an inescapable part of your job), I can give you one piece of advice without compunction:
At least fucking try.
If you can’t be profound, be entertaining. If you can’t be entertaining, be wry. If you can’t be wry, make up preposterous stories. But for goodness sake, don’t settle for something that every other person in the entire world could have done.
Stuff is unavoidable. Everyone makes it and everyone consumes it. Make yours a little bit different.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the Workplace section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)