Content was invented in 2007 by Steven Ross, a principal at a boutique communications agency. Ross, who now works as a freelance visionpreneur, often became confused when he had to discuss the many different kinds of work — articles, videos, photos — he would commission for clients. But one day, while taking a bath, he had a thought that would change the world.
Why not just call it all content?
He leapt out of the bathtub and ran down the street. “Creative nonfiction is called content now,” he yelled. “And Red Bull videos of people jumping off scary cliffs into water, that’s content as well.”
“What about seventeen photos of Leonardo DiCaprio from the ’90s?” asked one passerby. “Is that content?”
“Hell yeah that’s content!” Ross said.
“What about this guy from Reddit who has a mildly amusing theory about Game of Thrones?” asked another.
“You bet that’s content!” Ross said.
“What about an article that consists entirely of screenshots of tweets?” asked another.
“No, I cannot simply call that content,” he said. “That’s called journalism content!”
Ross’ invention spread around the world faster than content of Taylor Swift and Lorde babysitting Beyoncé’s twins while holidaying on that men-only island in Japan. Soon, everybody began calling things content. Copywriters became known as ‘content specialists,’ news websites became known as ‘content providers,’ and libraries became known as ‘shrines to content.’ It was the greatest societal shift since Johannes Gutenberg invented the content machine in 1440.
It may sound silly to us now, but back in 1987, people really did used to say “let’s watch a movie” or “let’s read a book” or “let’s look at photos of movie stars who are fat now.” These days we know that what they were actually doing was “consuming content.” But as they say, hindsight content is always 20/20.
If one day you would like to create content of your own, it’s important to remember that different countries enjoy different content. For example, people in Britain will enjoy content about pieces of toast that look like Drake, whereas people in Mexico would most likely prefer content about tacos that look like Drake. Meanwhile, people in Greenpoint often consume content about the ethical dilemmas of enjoying content about tacos that look like Drake.
Unfortunately, some content creators feel that calling everything content can make it hard to differentiate between types of content. “It’s like comparing apples content to oranges content” they say, unaware that there are indeed many different forms of content.
‘Social content’, ‘web content’, ‘digital content.’ These are just some types of content that are supposedly different from one another. (At current time of writing, your safest bet is still to call all forms of content “content.” )
So, what does the future of content hold? Some experts say the future of content might just be virtual reality, while others seem to believe the future of content might just be virtual reality. But one thing we do know for sure is that ‘content’ is here to stay.
Until we find a more annoying word for it.