In media production and publishing, content is information and experiences that provides value for an end-user/audience in specific contexts. Content is "something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts." Content can be delivered via many different media including, but not limited to, the internet, television, and audio CDs, books, magazines, live events, such as conferences and stage performances, etc. The word is used to identify and quantify the information we receive through various formats and genres as manageable value-adding components of useful media to the target audience.
The word "content" is often used colloquially to refer to media. However, content is more accurately used as a specific term in that it means the subject matter of the medium rather than the medium itself. Likewise, the word "media" and some compound words that include "media" (e.g. multimedia, hypermedia) are instead referring to content, rather than to the channel through with the information is delivered to the end user/audience. An example of a type of content commonly referred to as a type of media is a "motion picture" referred to as "a film." The distinction between medium and content is less clear when referring to interactive elements that contain information and are then contained in interactive media, such as dice contained in board games or GUI widgets contained in software.
Communication theory philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase, "The medium is the message." In the case of content, the channel through which information is delivered, the "medium," affects how the end user perceives content, the "message." In other words, the author, producer or publisher of an original source of information or experiences may or may not be directly responsible for the entire value that they attain as content in a specific context. For example, part of an original article (such as a headline from a news story) may be rendered on another web page displaying the results of a user's search engine query grouped with headlines from other news publications and related advertisements. The value that the original headline has in this group of query results may be very different from the value that it had in its original article.
Content also leads to influencing other people in creating their own content, sometimes in a way that the original author didn't or couldn't plan or imagine. User innovation allows for users to develop their own content from existing content.
Technological effects on content
Traditionally, content was edited and tailored for the public through news editors, authors, and other kinds of content creators, however not all information content requires creative authoring or editing. Through recent technological developments, truth is found philosopher Marshall McLuhan's idea of a global village; new technologies allow for instantaneous movement of information from every corner to every point at the same time has caused the globe to be contracted into a village by electric technology, such as mobile phones and automated sensors. These new technologies can record events anywhere for publishing and converting to potentially reach a global audience on channels such as YouTube, most recorded or transmitted information and experiences can be deemed content. Content is no longer a product of only reputable sources; new technology has made primary sources of content more readily available to all (for example, a video of a politician giving a speech compared to an article written by a reporter who actually witnessed the speech.)
Media production and delivery technology may potentially enhance the value of content by formatting, filtering and combining original sources of content for new audiences with new contexts. The greatest value for a given source of content for a specific audience is often found through such electronic reworking of content as dynamic and real-time as the trends that fuel its interest. Less emphasis on value from content stored for possible use in its original form, and more emphasis on rapid re-purposing, reuse, and redeployment has led many publishers and media producers to view their primary function less as originators and more as transformers of content. Thus, one finds out that institutions, that used to focus on publishing printed materials, are now publishing both databases and software to combine content from various sources for a wider-variety of audiences.
Difference between Content and Medium
While McLuhan stated that "the media is the message," there is a key difference between content (the "message") and medium. Medium refers strictly to the method of delivery of content; media simply is the way in which the content gets to the user. Content itself is the what the end-user derives value from. Thus, "content" can refer to both the information provided by the medium as well as the additional as well as the method in which that information was delivered, because the end-user can derive value from both the core information and the way in which the information was presented; the medium however, provides little to no value to the end-user without the information and experiences that make up the content. For example, a user watching a video on a site such as YouTube will acquire valuable information from the video itself as well as the recommended, similar videos that YouTube provides in the sidebar; however, the user would not gain that information if YouTube hadn't hosted the video in the first place.
While marketing and media interests have broadly adopted the term "content," public reaction has been less enthusiastic. The word is rarely used in conversation, and some individuals actively object to the term. The objections are spread across a considerable spectrum: some complain about the term's inherent ambiguity, others assert that the term devalues the work of authors, and still others argue that it overemphasizes the work of authors.
- Odden, Lee (2013), "What is Content? Learn from 40+ Definitions", TopRank Online Marketing Blog, Retrieved 2014-02-20
- McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (MIT Press, 1964, 1994) p. 7.
- McLuhan, Marshall. Letters of Marshall McLuhan. (Oxford University Press, 1987) p254.
- McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media. (Gingko Press, 1964, 2003) p6.
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- "Words to Avoid (or Use with Care) Because They Are Loaded or Confusing - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation (FSF)". Gnu.org. 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2012-02-18.
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