Yet whilst the term is increasingly bounded around in the TV, film and marketing sectors, we in those industries seem to have slept-walked into a consensus that this limp catch-all neatly groups together a multitude of creative endeavours – all formed through passion, intellect and hard graft – into a meaningful singular entity.
It doesn’t. We should stop.
Content is a word that attempts to encapsulate ‘anything’, whilst simultaneously failing to convey very much at all. And quite aside from it being an inherently crap word; I believe our continued use of it fundamentally de-values creativity, at a time when traditional TV needs to embrace and celebrate its ingenuity.
For all our talk of modern media’s ‘golden age’, we’ve defaulted to using industry vernacular that looks to describe everything from a western-tinged sci-fi drama viewed on a 65” screen to a cookery show on Snapchat, as if we can distill the imagination, skill and craft that goes into production of entertainment into a glib ‘that’ll do’ phrase. Meanwhile, in the eyes of our dear audiences, it’s also completely devoid of meaning. When was the last time you collapsed into the sofa with your loved one and asked, “shall we stay in tonight and watch some content?”
Put it another way: if you stored a Lamborghini, a Warhol original and a bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux in a room, would you really be happy slapping a label on the door titled ‘products’? I’m not entirely sure you would.
Though it was not without a few challenges, we banned the word completely here at K7 Media midway through 2018. As a global media consultancy, reporting on trends for TV brands across the world, we’re constantly looking at video entertainment (you see, it worked) across a broad range of genres, territories and form factors. Yet, we too had fallen into the trap, and we’d fallen deep.
New game show – content! VR experience – content! ‘Unique social experiment’ – content!
Like a parasite, the word has even wormed its way throughout our branding. ‘Intelligence and Insight on Global Content Trends’, we shouted from every touchpoint…cue the sound of business cards and marketing collateral being tipped into the recycling.
Quitting was hard at first, just like any other dependency, but as we fought our way through the cold turkey – avoiding the ‘c’ word has become our office bingo – it was utterly cathartic. Removing the option of that now forbidden catch-all focusses the mind into finding far more useful definitions; be it a comedy, a web-series, a branded short or an animal-themed reality dating show. It’s that simple, and I beg you to try it.
To my mind, we should not accept the commoditisation of creativity into a set of ‘zeros and ones’ that can be stored in some vast virtual warehouse, but our continued use of the word simply serves to perpetuate that notion. But if traditional TV is to meet the challenges faced from the rise of digital players – to compete and to collaborate in this evolving landscape — we should stand firm on our definitions of the great work we’re all involved in making, so let’s start the fightback now.
Phil Birchenall is managing director of K7 Media.