What is content?

August 23, 2011

What is content?

I get asked this all the time. And with good reason. Now that everyone's talking about content management, content development, content strategy, content anything, it's hard to know what we really mean when we say "content". Here’s the definition Steve and I use:

"Content is the presentation of information for a purpose to an audience through a channel in a form."

The definition has five components:

  1. Information
  2. Purpose
  3. Audience
  4. Form
  5. Channel

The key to successful communication is explicitly identifying and optimizing each of the individual elements. This post takes a look at the information parts and how you can "operationalize" them.

1. Information

What ideas are you sending out? This tends to be consistent across forms because it is anchored by messaging. Information, as we define it here, is the combination of the most important ideas audience needs to know and the key details (evidence, explanations and examples) that support those ideas.

2. Purpose

Why are we doing this? What do we want our audience to think/do/feel? Content is most successful when we design it to achieve a specific goal. Stating this goal explicitly enhances the development of content that resonates with your audience.

3. Audience

Who is our intended consumer for this content? Too often we create content without fully considering our audience. Explicitly identify the people you want to reach, their concerns, and their questions. This is where relevance and resonance meet.

To create content from these T-charts, you can start with almost anywhere except DETAILS. Just jump in with your main idea. Then do a sentence or paragraph for each detail. Follow that with your think and/or do. BOOM! Instant draft! From that point you can start to tune up the copy with solid revisions like these. We think this is the fastest and most effective approach to content development -- from video scripts to blog posts to annual reports.

For the second part of the definition, click here.

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What is Content? © 2011 The Word Factory/Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chandler Turner September 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

That is a damned nice post. I hope others read it.
Applause!

Reply

Barbara Saunders March 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Item one seems to give short shrift to the content of content. Many marketing messages or program summaries can be captured in 4 to 5 bullet points. “Citizen Kane” cannot, nor can the longitudinal Terman studies or the writings of Plato or … you get the idea.

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