☠ Yarrr! Content ☠


Here’s an idea. What follows is an explanation
of why I personally dislike the word “content.” You don’t have to
dislike it, but I do. [theme music] This episode of Idea
Channel brought to you by our patrons and
CuriosityStream. If you’ve been watching
Idea Channel for a bit, you’ve maybe caught me intoning
the popular all purpose media label “content”
as (PIRATE VOICE) yarrr, content, like some sort
of internet pirate. With a pegleg, not
a torrent client. (PIRATE VOICE) Content, content,
content, yarrr, content. The pirate voice isn’t a random
choice, believe it or not. And we’ll eventually
talk about why I chose “yarrr, content” over
“content,” “that there’s content,” or “bleep,
bloop, bleep, content.” Also, for the sake of my
vocal cords and your sanity, I’m not going to do a voice
every time I say “content.” Before we talk about
why pirate voice though, I want to be clear
upfront about why I’m not a fan of using “content” to
describe broad selections of media and culture. If you want to use “content”
to reference YouTube videos or medium posts, that’s fine. I ain’t here to beef. OK, I’m here to beef
slightly, but not to like end any friendships. For me, saying “content” is
like putting milk in coffee. I avoid it where
possible, because it makes me feel a little queasy. Though I can appreciate
that for a lot of people it is way of life. For whatever reason, when
someone describes themselves as a fan of someone
else’s content or when YouTube
provides guidance on how to get subscribers to
interact with your content, I bristle. So it’s probably
helpful to discuss what I understand people
to mean and not mean when they use the word “content.” For starters, yes, all things
are technically content. In that content is
meaning put into a form. All books, movies, webcomics,
ballet performances, and noise rock
shows are content. What I am talking about
is a more local sense used to describe media
with an audience. For instance, some
people describe me as a content creator. I make YouTube
videos and a podcast. Sometimes I make theater
and I write things. And this gives rise to
one defense of content. The creative economy has forced
or enabled creative types to branch out into many fields. And so many don’t have a
clear creative identity. What Hank Green, the Brothers
McElroy, and Rosanna Pansino make is not a uniform type
of material expression, but a wide ranging set
of things most easily collected under “content.” Welcome to another
Nerdy Nummies. And this is fair. But like what about Zendaya,
Cory Doctorow, or Aziz Ansari? It feels strange to call
these people content creators, even though they
too have produced many and varied works not easily
corralled under one descriptor. Why might calling them
content creators feel strange? I think it’s because
in common usage, “content” delimits internet
media more than any other kind of media and internet notoriety
more than any other kind of notoriety. People don’t tend to label
“American Gods,” Dan Brown novels, or the new Perfume
Genius record content. But Idea Channel, The
Babysitters Club Club, and Neil Cicierega’s work,
that there is hashtag internet, hashtag content. This association between
internet things and content is a long running one. The internet has famously
been home to user generated content
since the 2000s. “Time” magazine named
you person of the year in 2006 because of
the power you, a.k.a. anyone, has to post
their content online. And from there, it expanded
through the YouTube, social media, and
advertising brandosphere, so that now a vast array
of things purpose made for internet distribution
are simply content. So when I hear “content,” I
hear largely internet-based, often serialized pieces of
media produced and distributed by individuals and maybe
even big companies, but never through traditional
broadcast channels. And if “conten” meant simply
something from the internet, I think I’d be fine. But it doesn’t seem to. Since “content” is shorthand
for “internet media” and not much else, it
tends to be associated with a specific set of values. People evaluate
content differently than they do other media types. And I think this is, in
part, because of what we, as a culture, think
about the internet, the home of content. A crass version
of this complaint sounds something
like art and media are meant for
appreciation by audiences. And content is for consumption
by content consumers. The idea being that the
content label implies we stuff our gobs with
media via the internet, don’t really experience it,
and move on to the next thing. As opposed to other formats
where we like care, I guess, or something. And furthermore, that
our exchange with content is not significantly cultural,
spiritual, or educational, but economical. This argument says
that such a label implies an unserious, crassly
commercial interaction. This argument also
isn’t really airtight. Not everything that’s consumed
is necessarily content. Consumption, as a metaphor
for audience interaction, is a lot of places,
including art. We talked about that
in an episode, ding. And also economics is
suffused throughout uh, I mean well, pretty much
everything, not just the internet. I will say this
though, while not all consumed things are
content, there is a weird, and I think correct implication
that all content is consumed. The label creates a
non-differentiation between media types, and
therefore implied experience. The experience of all content
across media which are watched, read, listened to,
seen, or perused, is flattened into one
mode, consumption, or even what I’d further
qualify as mere consumption. Digested and then lumped in with
other similar recently digested things. This doesn’t mean that you
don’t enjoy those things. But that they’re implied to
have a similar heft and impact. Think about like consuming
steak versus popcorn at the movie theater. Consumption versus
mere consumption. And I mean, maybe that’s
true of the internet, which contains endless media
objects readily available, interconnected,
and often designed for rapid appraisal,
multitaskability, snack ability, shareability,
and other various internet abilities with all those like
little colorful buttons that stack next to
basically everything. So you’ll sit and
you will read a book. And you’ll sit and
you’ll watch a movie. But on the internet, you’ll
sit and you’ll read this post and then you’ll watch
that YouTube video, and you’ll tab over
to this newsletter while that video plays. And then oh hey,
someone tweeted. And suddenly you’ve
lost five minutes and you can’t remember
what you were doing. So maybe the experience across
internet things has flattened. And all those things
that we consume do all have the same weight. But also, I surf
through cable channels. I let Netflix play
while reading the paper. I flip through “The Economist”
while watching DVR’d baseball. Or I read comic books while
listening to Golden Retriever with “It’s Always
Sunny” playing on mute. The point being, though there
are many non-internet things which I merely consume,
neither I nor anyone that I’ve encountered, at
least, refers to those things as “content.” Romance novels, muzak,
and Steven Seagal movies are notorious, even
purpose-built time fillers, artifacts of mere consumption. And yet we never refer
to them as “content.” Why might that be? I think it’s this. As a result of the
largely internet based nature of the content
ecosystem, a digital dualism has been infused in
the idea of content, if not the content itself. The “online” gets treated as
different from the “offline,” even if our experiences
of both are similar. And as a result, the online
becomes something distinct. Though there may, in fact,
be little difference. An important factor in the
creation of that distinction, I think, is that traditional
media objects aren’t commonly thought to comprise
one contiguous mass. Yes, mass media is a thing,
as is popular culture. But even so, books, movies,
comics, and TV shows are individualized in
a way “content” is not. Traditional media objects
aren’t on or in popular culture in the way posts, uploads, and
streams are on the internet. At the risk of putting
too fine a point on it, books and movies
are not contents. And so they are not content. They are simply themselves. So like cups scooped from
a massive body of water, content exists in relation
to a larger mass, rather than its individual instances. Sure, there are
pieces of content, but any individual piece isn’t
appraised in the way a Kendrick release, “New Yorker”
article, JH Prynne poem, or episode of “The Bachelor” is. Like rice, sugar, or lumber,
individual pieces of content may be important,
but they’re still measured out from a
seemingly infinite expanse. What makes something content
isn’t simply what it is, but where it came from, the
internet, and (PIRATE VOICE) its vast content ocean, yarrr. Which brings us
to the point where I will fly the conclusion
of this argument up the mast and we’ll see if
it catches wind. Anybody who sails don’t tell
me if that metaphor holds up. I’m not saying that
there aren’t things that we can’t or
shouldn’t call content. But that the dividing
line between content and not, as I
understand it in use is currently perpendicular
to where it should be. The line shouldn’t be
between internet and not, but between two different
types or qualities of media, regardless of
their internetness. Morgan and I are talking
about the wind metaphor. And he said I
should say “hoist,” but he’s giving me a pass. That’s just a quick aside. But even this distinction
has its shortcomings. If there’s one thing that we’ve
tried to explore and defend here an Idea Channel,
it’s the idea that all media has
importance and depth. Steven Seagal movies, like
an Idea Channel episode, a social media feed,
or a Brian Eno record may be content, in
that they inspire or even aspire to mere
consumption over consumption. But ultimately, that
mode of interaction is one decided upon
by their audience, not a characteristic
of the work itself. This is what the pirate
voice is all about. First and foremost, it’s a way
to feel silly about a label that I think is a
little silly to remind myself to make it stand out. Because I think it
should stand out. But also a reminder that
meaning, significance, value, in short, intellectual
riches, are often buried. There’s a fortune
waiting to be found, often at the end of a long
and unpleasant journey, and at the bottom
of some briny depth. But the riches are out there. And no one is going
to find them for you. (PIRATE VOICE)
The content ocean, she may be a harsh
mistress, but she holds many untold treasures. Content ahoy. What do you all
think about content? I realize this one might
be a little strange or different because my
perspective on this word, as someone who is
called a content creator and who makes things
that are labeled as content by many people–
very, very innocently, I might add– is different from
your perspective on that word as an audience
member, as someone who is a fan of
someone else’s content. So if you make
things, how do you feel about people describing
your work as “content?” And as an audience
member, what do you think is the significance of
calling something “content?” And I want to be
clear that I’m not asking what you mean to say
when you describe something as content. But what you think that word,
when you give it some thought, signifies. Which is a slightly
different question. Let us know in the comments. And I will respond
to some of them in next week’s comment
response video. In this week’s comment
response video, we talk about your thoughts
regarding fidget spinners. That one will be out tomorrow. VidCon is coming up. And if you are
going to be there, I also am going to be there. That is a strict causality. I will only be there
if you also are there, so I hope you’re going. We have a Facebook, an
IRC, and a subreddit. And the tweet of
the week this week comes from LaScaldaferri,
who points us towards Twitch Plays
the Stock Market. That’s right. And hey, in case
you were wondering, this episode was brought
to you by CuriosityStream, a subscription streaming service
that offers documentaries and nonfiction titles
from the world’s best filmmakers including exclusive
originals like “Birth of the Internet.” Get unlimited access today. The first two months
are free if you sign up at
CuriosityStream.com/IdeaChannel. Use the promo code Idea Channel. If you want to support the show,
Idea Channel has a Patreon. Thank you so, so much to
all of our current patrons. You make our hearts flutter. And last, but
certainly not least, this week’s episode would not
have been possible or good without the very hard work of
these creators of the finest (PIRATE VOICE) yarrr, content. [theme music]

100 thoughts on “☠ Yarrr! Content ☠

  1. I first heard the phrase content creator in the context of YouTube, and understood it (and still understand it) as a differentiation between the people who run the site (i.e. programmers, marketing specialists, etc.) and the people who fill up the site with…err…content. So I see it as an economic distinction, not in that sense of "this is for money" but as "hey look, we made this platform, and other people will fill it up with stuff — for free!" Of course, eventually YouTube started providing grants, etc. to people who were the biggest content creators for them (i.e. got them the most hits and therefore the most revenue generation), but you can be a content creator without getting paid for it by anybody, except maybe directly by your audience.

    So I think the reason that other types of media are not considered "content" is because they stand on their own, and are their own entities, rather than being made to fill in space on a specific website. Additionally, the economics are different — that media won't get consumed, distributed, or even created, unless it is already funded by a studio, publisher, etc.. Those entities make an investment in the project before it is created, making a calculated risk based on what they believe audiences will like. "Content," on the other hand, is something that can be created without any of those things. It is entertainment which can be created for free, at least on the part of the distribution platform, without them having to take any risks. The only people taking a risk are the people who make it, and — if they receive funding through Patreon, IndieGoGo, or Kickstarter — the audience. The platform takes zero financial (though potential legal) risk in allowing this content to exist on their site.

    I hope this makes sense, I can't really reread it because I can't find my glasses, so I'm sorry if there are typos or grammatical weirdness.

  2. Wait. Wtf even is content. I have now forgotten. Semantic satiation has wiped my brain.

  3. I have viewed content as the building blocks of media. Let's plays are a type of media and commentary on a video game is the content. Content is medias contents if you will.

  4. I've never assumed content to be internet only, mass consumed or merely consumed, or in anyway a derision of a person's contribution. Content is media is art. Content to me always meant only a wider variety of manufactured works, such that you could not be labelled or such that common labels did not apply. If you have performed several concerts, written a handfull of books, and do impromptu vaudeville in the area parks on alternate weekends, then old news men might call you a musician, but I would say I enjoy all the content you create. It's even more important as you widen that spectrum of content that defies common conception, and the internet gives us a place to do that; to manufacture content faster than traditional media can label it.

  5. Out of curiosity, what word would you suggest to describe consumption-able media as opposed to mere consumption-able content. (PS I suggest consumables)

  6. I've taken to pausing Idea Channel videos before Mike thanks everyone who worked on the video by calling them something from within the video to try and guess what line from the video he's going to use.
    I think it's going to be "thanks to all these colorful little buttons that stack next to basically everything."
    let's see how I did.

  7. I'm on board with this, Mike. Content, in this context, is a weird and unnecessary neologism.

    But then again, as much as you're chagrined by it, you do use it a lot in your videos. So maybe it's useful afterall?

  8. To me, it signifies that the one using the word might have a better understanding of what specifically the stuff is one is talking about than one using the word stuff when referring to what specifically the stuff is one is talking about. I think how you think most think of it is off. I dislike how the word anime outside of Japan is commonly used.

  9. Dude, this is semantic lost battle, like the use of "literally" or "really" to mean "very" when those adverbs have little to do with literal meaning or factual reality.

  10. Interesting. I thought calling it content was a good thing. I find the online media I consume is more 'content' dense than traditional media. It either has a stronger educational component, new interesting ideas, and/or is more personal. Movies and most TV is flashier, with less meaningful 'content' per minute. Traditional media is more fluff, and often doesn't rise to the level of 'content'.

    Maybe the one flaw here is that I don't call a documentary content… Perhaps I should start.

  11. It feels… odd… to see the word "content" used for, say, a serialized webfiction totaling 100,000 words in the same way that it is used for a twenty-second clip of a kitten rolling over.

  12. Possibly because of how many entrepreneurial-minded folks I follow on social media, I've come to associate "content" closely with advertising and how content is often created to promote a product, service, lifestyle or brand. So in the case of Aziz, "Master of None" is created as a product, while anything he creates around it (blog posts, social media stories, interviews) might be regarded as content designed to promote the product, "Master of None."

  13. I'm surprised you never touched on "Non-Content" which I've seen used by some creators to signify a pointless post. I've seen non-content to meaning something out of their usual schedule, a video of some random thing, or just sharing a meme in a sudden way.

  14. I think part of the reason "content" gets applied only to Internet things is the way in which things are presented to you online. For instance, Youtube is a platform, a framework, into which users must insert content for it to have a purpose. The video uploaded is displayed in a box on the webpage as the part of the "content" of this page.

    A physical book by contrast becomes a separate entity once published. Its text is not displayed as part of a larger whole. It is not merely a bit of content on a page, it's a book. When you hold it, when you read it, there is only the book. The publisher's name and logo are printed somewhere, but you are not viewing as part of some bigger thing they have created.

    And so Youtube videos are the "contents" of Youtube, as they are objects embedded into it. In a similar vain, I have heard "contents" used to refer to the programming of a particular TV channel. As again this is a space that offers separate chunks as part of a bigger whole. But on TV you mostly still see the overall "channel" and the programmes as separate entities. They aren't integrated as things are on webpages. Perhaps this is why content sticks to Internet media more than offline media. Online, you cannot help but notice the bigger framework surrounding the piece of media you are consuming.

  15. I definitely use content to describe internet media. It never occurred to me that there might be any implications that the creators would potentially dislike. However, content to me isn't a bad word. In a lot of contexts, I use it to replace the word "substance." If we imagine one of the many episodes of Star Trek (any series) where there's no discussion and nothing really happens, I might describe it by saying "there's no real content to this episode." On the other hand, I might use it to describe a dense textbook. "There's just too much content on the page." I don't think content is necessarily a "mere-consumable," is what I'm saying.

  16. Fantastic argument for your distinction! It's funny to have an idea channel topic with some lore and thematic development haha.

  17. As a content producer, I associate the word "content" with production (specifically of the "mass-" variety), which on some level seems fitting for content producers of our era and the constant need to produce more stuff for one's audience to "consume".
    I sense a cause and effect relationship here, though I'm not sure which would be which.

  18. I'm not content with the term 'content'….for me, it means an individual's/group's created works that have become popular enough to seem mundane to certain consumers.

  19. I think your appraisal of "yarr, content" is fair, and it echoes google's definition: information made available by a website or other electronic medium. Still, I hesitate to set its meaning in stone. It seems likely that the label will grow, more media will be swept away into the ocean, and the distinction will fade. Either way, the birth of this new meaning is important in how it describes media's internet boom – varied, largely nondescript, and immense.

  20. I thought youtubers and the like were called "content creators" due to the fact that they make content for Youtube. Kinda like the contents inside of a book, or on a canvas, or the contents of a movie. You're essentially making the content of the website. I don't think the word "content" devalues what is being made by "content creators", rather it's just a word that got popularised. Now it's used everywhere because it's easier to say "content creator" instead of using some other descriptor that might lead to confusion that while easy to clear up, it would be extra effort that's not needed.

  21. I don't buy it. TV shows are just as much "content" produced for channels that compete for your time, NPR and [insert your show of choice] are content to fill time on the radio, and even if there's no clear singular media presence for literature, music, or art, they all fill out the measly time we have to spend in this life.

    I would argue that the word "content" is merely used now because people needed a non-label to describe everything that is made on the internet. However, the assumption that it can only apply to certain things is flat-out wrong. If something is put ON the internet, or at least made at least in part to be used by people on the the internet, is that what magically makes it "content"?

    No. Content is that which we consume(or whatever) in our lives, made by people for people. These things are the literal "content" of media and culture in the absence of people-as-people. YouTube stars and gossip-journal celebrities are people-as-content, selling their time in the form of personality for our consumption(again, or whatever), while artists are selling their time in the form of creativity and emotion. And it goes on.

    So the Mona Lisa, Danny Boy, To Catch a Mockingbird, PewDiePie, and 10 things only 90s kids get ALL make up the content of our lives and cultures.

    Content. No yar necessary.

  22. IMO, ALL content is art. Sure, an article about the newest celebrity diet might not seem like anything anyone would consider an art, but I argue that if anything is created specifically to affect the lives of others, it should be considered art. This includes all forms of content. I would go as far to say that all content is art, but not all art is content. For instance, the underlying code behind a video game could be considered an art by my definition. It satisfies that criteria of being created to affect the lives of others, but code is not to be consumed by the end user, but still used in some capacity.

    Idk, I've had a couple of drinks, and maybe it sounds dumb, but to me, all content is art. I take offense to the sentiment that, "art is to be appreciated and content is to be consumed."

  23. i can see why you take the label personally. you make great videos. and being youtube 'content' shouldn't lump you in with videos of seals doing dumb tricks or wipe-out fails or whatever. your channel is the bomb.

  24. How do you feel about me calling this IdealChannel post "MOIST"?

  25. The first time he said content… my brain automatically heard… "Yar… con-tent…" And I was confused because I knew he hadn't said it that way.

  26. The first thing I think of when the word "content" is applied to non-internet media is "Table of Contents" in a book. I feel that the word "content" in the internet sense is probably an anachronism; a holdover from the days when the internet seemed small and quirky. That which was contained within the internet comprised the internet's "content," in much the same way the chapters of a book comprise its "contents." As technology has advanced and the volume of internet "content" has exploded, our "net speak" has failed to keep pace. While media contained within the internet still represents the internet's "content," the same could be said regarding all the chapters in each of the books in every library in the world: Were anyone to try and compile a master "table of contents" for all libraries, we would think them mad, and rightly so…but this is exactly the way the etymology of "internet content" has derived, and we give it a pass.

  27. I'm a comic writer. I've been doing it for less than a year. Some of my comics are great and some of them aren't so great. When I became print published it changed they way that people look at me because I was vetted by a company. However, I would still consider all of my work "content" even if it's print published. When I talk about content it's just something that is made. When I want to talk about something that is good it's considered "good content". I read or watch most things online or through my computer and I believe everything is "content". It's just a matter of how good it is. "Content" isn't a diss or derogatory remark because everything is "content".

  28. I dislike the things i make being described as content even though most of the time its meant innocently. It seems contrary to my goal of connecting with people and providing value for them in an individual video when the word seems to have a judgement on the comparative use of the things i make to what they consume beside it. I try and describe other peoples creations as the specific thing they made, music, videos, streams, etc. I guess you could call me a malcontent.

  29. Content has a seemingly negative connotation to me. If i watch an artist on Youtube, I describe them as an artist. When I watch the Green brothers, I say internet educators and nerds. Content seems to be the lazy label for when a creation or creator is too robust to easily identify or explain so we call it content instead of taking the time to appreciate the work. Sure there isn't a whole lot of meaning to be derived of from cat videos, or memes, but they are a reflection of humor, and culture and aren't necessarily created with the same intentions as a podcast, or web comic. Content seems to be the way "Adults" ( i use this term somewhat conspicuously) perceive the vast user curated and created internet. Content, in their eyes, becomes a lesser form of media, seen but not absorbed and therefore descriptive of the viewers more than the art or production itself. Is it so bad to list someones name and then a string of accomplishments and talents? Do we really have to lessen the impact of their importance or significance by demoting all their endeavors as "content creation"? It ticks me off actually, especially when I catch myself using the term.

  30. It is an interesting view and since I have a small website destinated to culture and literature, everytime I think about different things to do I get the problem with the short-life of things in the plataform and the way people understand and valid the material disposable on the website. Basicly, if it is online it is not as important as a printed thing – for a book, as an example.

  31. This immediately brings to mind the Adult Swim bumper about content which is also [literally] content dense. And it uses 'content' as a self deprecating acknowledgement that the TV is most likely still on because a stoned person has fallen asleep and left it on as a nightlight of sorts. This derogatory view seems to align with Mike's argument but I look at 'content' differently. In traditional media the network is not the content creator, but they are the one's shoveling it toward consumers. So, I do think of Rebecca Sugar, John Oliver, Alex Hirsh, Greg Burlante, et al. as content creators. In this way Youtube lines up very similarly to traditional media, and there's even some of the 'content mocking carrier' vibe like when the Simpsons calls out Fox for their nonsense since lately it seems Youtube is working as hard as they can to screw over their content creators. And why shouldn't we use content to describe offline media that has something of substance to say? I'm more likely to refer to the new John Green book as content than the new 50 Shades of whatever (they're still making those right?) which is the media equivalent of processed cheese squares.

  32. I think it comes down to humans' need to label things. Even already existing media transforms to something unique when in the form of a Youtube video. Comedy becomes memes, paintings become speed drawings, documentaries become video essays. Calling people like you a "content creator" just happens to roll off the tongue easier than "Youtube video essay creator."

  33. While I agree that 'content' is for 'mere consumption' (and not defined by where it is located), I think that the term has value as such.

    'Idea Channel' is on par with cheap direct-to-DVD films and the like, it is here to be merely consumed. Sure, you can dig into it and find value (which you can do with anything as stated in this video) but the main difference is the intent.

    Idea Channel does not approach the viewer with intentional 'hidden meaning' like most art-forms do, it is easily digestible, even if it holds some ideas it presents them in such an easy to find way that it is BY NO MEANS 'real art', it is 'merely consumed'.

    The video had a comparison between steak and popcorn, in which case 'Idea Channel' is akin to a protein shake.

  34. There is definitely a culture around "content". So much content is niche because the Internet is so varied, whereas mass media is just that- for the masses. I don't think it's the platform but rather the audience, internet culture, and, of course, the vast economic powers that be shaping the usage of the word. The more money is put into something, the more the powers that be are telling you to watch it or appreciate it, the less likely it is to be called content. This is why Netflix is not content while fanart is. The Internet sphere and therefore Internet media are held to different standards. It is, after all, an "information superhighway", and people normally go fast on highways. With so much to digest on the Internet, it's convenient to lump it into a single label. The democratic, power-leveling nature of the Internet bumps up against the very stratified power structure we have in real life. Content is not as important because we collectively have taken our assumptions about the Internet, the people on it, and how things "should" work and applied them.

  35. When talking about media, the thing that you call "a piece of media", referring to not the media itself, but its content, I and many other media scientists and theorists call that "content".

    The word to me signifies either a concious differentiation between the structure and the thing contained in it, or a weak attempt to be seen as sophisticated enough to make such distinctions.

    The discussion you try to start here seems to me to fall strongly into the second category. Consider yourself to be parrrrt of ye problem. 😉

  36. "content" does refer to internet stuff, but it's kind of more than that. It's the "substance" that is a lure for advertising dollars and views.

    Memes are not "content" Comment sections are not "content".

    In this, Netflix is also not content, but, perhaps traditional TV is (created for advertising). We also talk of "Content" in "free" magazines and advertorials are written for "content", and where the origin of this meaning pre-internet came from.

    and if you think about it this is where the difference really is.

    Content isn't described in terms of its quality or actual content, but in its length, its ability to hook an audience, and its key words, ect.

    Content on the internet originates from wanting to maximize your webpage views via creating pages and articles to embed said keywords which helped boost your ranking on the googles.

    from here, the invention of AdWords and advertising revenues for all became a major player. More views meant more advertising dollars, and so on.

    Even today, when youtube talks of content, it talks of optimal video lengths (15 min or thereabouts) based on data generated by viewers, and it recommends accordingly. Google also states "best practices" when writing content, stating about 500 words, and listicles being optimal as people rarely have the attention span for longer (plus breaking up a listicle into many pages forces the reader to view more ads).

    Clickbait was developed in this regard towards content, and even still, your channel and others don't necessarily post on what may be of the creators' choice of topics, but those that are what the viewers or readers desire and will generate the most number of views.

    Content isn't about it's, again, apologies, actual "content" but is a general term for media to consume in order to act as a trojan horse for advertising.

  37. To me, part of the reason for the disconnect you discuss in how we identify something as "content" comes from the community that consumes it.
    You touch on this briefly, but you see this in standard forms of expression, as well. "Mass media" is defined separately from classic forms of art because there is an industry behind their creation, whereas traditional artists are considered more as a "community" than an industry, which is also seen in industry itself with a divide between mass-market and indie music. Community art and industry-created art are both art, but are segregated. The community that consumes delineates how they are perceived and defined.
    With internet media versus "traditional" media, the community aspect of differentiation happens again, as each piece of traditional media has a culture that surrounds it. People who enjoy music can identify it separately as music lovers and there is a culture behind it, people who appreciate movies are cinemaphiles and movie-goers and there is a culture behind that, etc.
    The internet as a whole is identified as a unified culture, but the media that this unified culture enjoys is NOT unified and runs an incredibly wide gamut, yet how the culture of the internet interacts with it is very similar across all of these different artistic disciplines on top of that, in contrast to other media forms. So because the media consumed is quite diverse (both in the artistic forms it takes and its intended purpose), yet is consumed and interacted with in similar ways by the culture that consumes it, it requires a much broader term to tent it all under, and "content" fit the bill in a way that other terms would not, mostly for its brevity.

  38. How far into making this video did "content" stop sounding like a real word?

  39. Mike Rugnetta but everytime he says content the divisions within the traditional media landscape become blurrier as an effect of thoughtful and careful consideration

  40. To me, content is what is contained in a container (or media). Content may be useful or not, interesting, funny, logical or illogical, it doesn't matter. It's the information behind the media, behind the picture, the tweet or the book.

  41. Late comment: Could content not primarily refer that which is periodical rather than indivdual. The old difference would be between a book and an article. As text is not the explicitly presumed media, that there are in fact all sensual experiences available, "content" can easily be replaced with "multimedia periodical instances." Content needs a container, and the container isn't the whole Internet: it's the source (Washington Post, YouTube channels, and on and on). I would comfortably call news articles in 1950s newspapers "content" without any sense of being dismissive of the quality of the material. -From a digital librarian.

  42. Personally, in the internet circles I run with, I tend to hear the terms “content” and especially “content creators” in discussions about how these materials and their creators “stack up,” typically through a political/social justice lens. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone use the term “content creator” outside a context of “content creators must be held accountable for the way their work affects their audience politically.” So for me, it has a critical tone, but in a somewhat different sense from what you’re talking about.

    In regards to the internet vs non-internet distinction, I think this may still have something to do with that, since this type of critique also tends to be harsher on “internet things,” probably because they tend to be more accessible to both wider and younger audiences.

  43. As a web application developer, I build platforms on which content is hosted. As such,, I see content as all that stuff that actually draws the user to the application. It's my job to make the buttons work, and to give a smooth user experience. But nobody comes to a website for buttons and UX. In development, the content gets mocked in with Lorem ipsum and/or nonsense files (eg., the first text file, image, or video file I find on my desktop that day). As a developer, I may not even know the format of the content during development, so the abstract concept of "content" is much easier to deal with. In much the same way, a book is a medium by which content is delivered. However the format of the content can be safely assumed to be text created by a writer, and/or illustrations created by an illustrator or photographs created by a photographer. The publisher doesn't create the content of the book, and the developer doesn't create the content of the application. Books themselves are not content because they are simply a delivery mechanism for the content…blame the code monkeys for the term "content", because we love our abstractions!

  44. Interesting. I have the feeling content is a mere generic word that would encompass every example inclusive of Steven Seagall's movies, Tangerine Dream records or Velazquez's paintings. The specific use of the word for internet media occured may not be easily labelled with one of the specific "traditional" labels we used for content in previous days (e.g. movies, records, paintings). It is a little bit like what happened to the distinction between Art and "the arts" with the expansion in art categories relative to the six Hegelian classics. As the number of arts increased beyond cinema and photography, the reference to the generic catch-all category Art acquires more of a life of its own. A clearer example: The concept of mammal emerges later than sheep, cow and whale. But not because people weren't aware of the fact that these animals nurse the young with milk. Rather, because the collection became so vast it required a name, and now, while the traditional labels retain their names, less conventional breeds like the platypus, the vole and the muskox are better understood through the now familiar category (mammal) than via their unfamiliar labels (platypus, vole and muskox). Or maybe I got it all wrong…

  45. I tend to use the word content to describe the contents of media not the type. Example: The play lacked content. I think the term 'content creator' can be a good thing. If someone refers to themselves as a musician – a listener expects music. If an actor – then video. But a content creator has flexibility. Either way never seen it as a value judgement.

  46. Was this made for me Mike? Hahah I hate that word. As an animator, I find being called a content creator completely degrading. It totally dumbs down all the different types of artists that exist into one big lump of "content" – and I can't believe some animators actually call themselves content creators instead.

  47. Maybe it's because content seems to be a descriptor without any measure of value. Books, movies, and cd's all have a measure of value in any given person's head. You're not going to hear anyone say, "I love consuming content!" The meaning of "content" is rather like saying "stuff." The internet is full of stuff.

    If you haven't seen it, go check out Julian Smith's video "Content." haha

  48. content is not about the content of the content, but the way in which it is consumed.

  49. I have never used the word "content" to describe media. If I refer to something as a web series it's because it wasn't created for a TV channel (Netflix is not a television channel simply because some cable channels allow you to watch it through their box) or a webcomic because it's being read on a website rather than being downloaded (digital comic) or held in my hands (print comic). I am a cartoonist/media critic/article writer/video producer. That's what I create, not simply content.

  50. I disagree with the premise that internet media is thought of as "merely consumed". While that may be true of some, I think that is more about the person using the word, and not the word itself. I don't think having one word for a lot of things denotes the same weight. That might be significantly affected by my deep respect of internet media and its creators, but it seems like the real problem is a perceived or real feeling that internet media is less-than as personified for Mike in the word "content".

  51. I watched this video from a computer on my desk. Table of contents?

  52. I actually relate to this a lot. So I've wanted to be a writer since the second grade. But I've also always been interested in performance, music, film, and a million other things. So around middle school, when I really got in to Vlog brothers and YouTube at large, I thought being a "content creator" would be the perfect path to explore all of my various interest either directly through creation or vicariously through commentary and video essays etc. But I never did it. I've always felt so conflicted about it and I could never put my finger on why until now! I think somewhere in my consciousness I got the idea that as soon as I became an "internet personality" or "content creator" I would lose my credibility as a "serious writer" which is all bs because A. Who cares? B. I'm wasting so much time worrying about all these hypotheticals that I'm not actually doing anything! And C. WHO CARES!!! The entire appeal of YouTube, as with many internet communities, is that it's a place for real people to explore things they're really passionate about! And yet I find myself worrying about how to consistently "brand" myself and what my hook will be as a creator to set me a part to the point where I don't even try because I convince myself that I'm too unoriginal or too weird to appeal to a larger audience which is SO DUMB!!!! Anyway this comment is becoming obnoxiously long and tangential but I think it relates to the whole internet content thing. Before,YouTube and so many other corners of the internet were these secret tight knit communities where people could just explore. But now with more and more media taking over the internet it simultaneously creates more means to create high quality stuff and yet cheapens individual creations, making these labors of love feel expendable which in turn puts A LOT of pressure on prospective creators to justify their interest/pursuit in online media as a worthwhile (which usually means profitable) endeavor. (Oh look at that she sounded like she was gonna stop then just went on another tangent! Lol)

  53. content is a thing within. in reference to wat it is inside? i dont have sutch a specific consept of wat content is. and for me it has nothimg in particular to do with the internet. just that there are things within the internet and things within those things and so forth.

  54. For me Content signifies the individual videos belong to the wider whole of the Creators videography, like the contents of a complation book, are the individual stories. Content implies an exploration and an opening, like exploring the contents of a bag, stumbling across a new YouTube channel with a great back catalogue does feel like this

  55. For me, the word "content" has always landed in a meaning almost exactly opposite to this "mere consumable" described both in this episode and in a recent Dear Hank and John. It's connected to things made exclusively for the Internet, but in a way that leans more heavily on them being user-generated. I hear "content" as referring to something that lacks a standard media format. TV shows, movies, newspaper articles, and even books are all made with the format at the forefront. Things like the length, the shape, where there will or won't be commercial breaks, and narrative arc are predetermined by what we think of as a TV show, movie, newspaper article, or book. Content, on the other hand, is something that breaks out of these predefined formats. Its length, shape, commercial breaks, and narrative arc are created from a level of scratch to best fit the thing being made–in short, the format is created to fit the CONTENT, not the other way around. Form follows function in a way that is specifically enabled by the lack of specific expectations in user-generated Internet culture, even when more traditional media outlets start taking part (like NPR's podcasts or SNL's online-only shorts).

  56. I think we shouldn't draw any distinction between content and non-content. Whether it's defined by internet mere consumption it's a false distinction. Internet videos/posts etc. are content but so are books and movies. They're all on a spectrum and all have value in the same ways. All types of content can have artistic value, informative value, entertainment value, etc.

  57. ahoy! "instagram photographer" – that line always gets my attention.

    when somebody uses the term "instagram photographer" or "content creator" the assumption becomes in some way that the platform begets the media and in turn, the platform also begets the creator of that media. it's a matter of perspective. for the people who share an interest in photography there is a very well documented historical lineage out there that works it's way into and comes from all corners of the "Culture". it's an established form so even when someone sees what I do on instagram and generalizes it as just some piece of content (yar), I know it belongs less to them than it does to the other people who treasure the medium. you kind of got to the heart of that.

    on the other hand, it may be easier to overlook, lose track of, or maybe even just plain difficult to see the historical, cultural, and creative perspectives that influence a particular piece of "new media" when the Internet and the world is just happening at such an incredible rate or because some "content" is just so out there beyond what's easily described. no matter what, it's just important to recognize and remind ourselves of the talent, dedication, and importance of educators, entertainers, and artists regardless of where they work. I've read a couple of people already making this point, but I think too that there is something comfortable about the catch-all nature of a word like "content creator". without people like you, it would be more difficult to speak about internet media without the clarity and depth you introduce to the conversation. you run a good ship, sir. I particularly liked this episode.

    tell the crew, good work.

  58. Hm. I'm more used to 'content' being used in video game media (and PR) to describe how much bang for your buck a game is going to give you, or how dense an open world is (Sometimes divided into 'quality content' to indicate that it's worthwhile vs… Well, filler content, for stuff like empty achievements for murdering 1000 of a given enemy type or collectathon quests there just because otherwise there'd be nothing between the miniature San Fransisco and the miniature Los Angeles with an irritatingly realisticly scaled content desert between them.)

    Which leads to me, different, issue with the term: "The game contains over 100 hours worth of gameplay content" as if just stuffing , as if a 20 hour story and 100 hours of time killer side quests that the developers clearly didn't care about are of equal worth… Which isn't to say that games which can keep you engaged for over 100 hours are bad, but… When a PR firm hired by a videogame company boasts 'over 100 hours worth of content' that implies something very different to me than someone saying that they 'got 110 hours out of that game' or that they've currently clocked 200 hours on Breath of the Wild or Skyrim or Football Manager, which to me instead of 'there's a lot of empty stuffing' implies 'I was engaged with the game for over a hundred hours'

  59. I wish I'd seen this last week. But hopefully I'm not the only person have this view on the subject. I view Content, as "internet content" and "creating content" as similar to "things In a box", or, even better, the things in a magazine. Or a book for that matter. (Table of Content). When someone would create their own website, the things they would put on it, in it, was its contents. That is what people would come to the site for. And when people would finish consuming what was there when they found it, they would be less likely to come back until new Content was created. So, be it a deviantart, fanfiction, or YouTube account you are creating Content for your own account to get yourbiwn following, as well as creating Content for the website at large. — This doesn't really happen in the physical world, aside from, for example, newspaper and magazine columnists, because books, movies, music, and art in general exist as their own thing. Movies are not only seen in theaters, they can be purchased for home viewing or viewed anywhere the owner chooses to allow it to be viewed. Authors write books for individual people to purchase and read at their leisure, they do not write a book and deliver it to a library where it is to stay. — So, I guess the Tl;Dr version is "Content is the thing that brings you to a place for the purpose of consuming it" and "the difference between internet content and 'physical' content is the physical content can be consumed entirely individually while internet content requires 'going to' The Internet"

  60. As an audience member, my understanding of what the word content signifies would range from anything informational/educational to entertainment/recreational… all of which can be displayed via photo, video or print.Ultimately, anything someone has created that passes my time can be considered content.I do like the differentiation of "consumption" versus "mere consumption."

  61. So basically. In season two of American gods we should see all-consuming boundless the child of media: content.

  62. Random and unrelated thing: Contente (the pronounce is very similar to Content) in portuguese means Happy/Satisfied. I thought of that every time he said "Yarr!Content!"

  63. Australian TV has been using the word "content" to describe everything in all forms of media for my conscious media consuming life (ie at least the past 25 years). It has described advertisements, news segments, newspaper content, digital media, books, magazines, the works. So if there is a discrimination between the way media is referenced with/without using the word "content" it might be orientated around the form of communication your home country uses to describe things. I for one always use the word content when communicating, especially on an analytic level, about any form of media no matter the format. From what I know of American television there has always been a lack of analysis of the actual content of a piece of media with focus instead on the interpretation by the making of the tv show (ie whether a book is propaganda for/against a particular point of view… rather than what the book actually says). So because of that I disagree with your analysis, especially when the definition of "content" is not "stuff on the internet" but something which is within something else (paraphrasing) which DOES mean your video within youtube, but ALSO means the writing/story within a book, the pictures in an album or the words in a radio show by its very definition. It would be akin to saying that the word "cat" is synonymous with the word "gif". The reason the word "content" is used on the internet so prolifically is because the majority of modern creativity now occurs in digital, redistributable format and a single large word is needed to cover all of it. So… why not content? The word "content" does not in any way depict the consumption of anything at all. It doesn't even imply that anything IS consumed. If a story is written and no one reads it, it is still content by the definition of the word content. There is a piece of paper and it contains a story. I just have to say that everything you've said in this video stems from your assumption that the word content is never used outside of the small application you have for it, and you only use it to describe internet content because… it doesn't sound like you consume anything but internet content. That doesn't make the word wrong in any way and I have to say making a video that completely destroys an important word because you and your circle don't use it correctly is going to do a lot of harm to your younger consumers who learn English not by listening to those who use words correctly like teachers or linguists… but people who entertain them on the internet.

  64. I think you just convinced me to rewatch all those Steven Segal movies…

  65. i feel like ive always used content with "web" in front of it. web content. like content in general, but web content is dif.

  66. I think the word means produced goods by creators. Maybe I'm not talking about the internet as much as others, but I think the association with the internet is subconscious for me.

  67. Useful conversation, but since I have always considered all media to be 'content' or the stuff within media, (media content like nutritional content ) I didn't find this useful, but likely I've thought about this myself and came to similar conclusion. Distinguish media by its purpose, more that its medium. I'm not a duelist in any way so i don't fall for any of that thinking being questioned here.

  68. I've always avoided using the word 'content' because it seems vague and unnecessary. I wouldn't say I enjoy your content, I'd say I enjoy your videos. If I need a word describing different media at the same time, I'll use 'work', as in when saying to an artist 'I love your work'. I really don't see where the word 'content' would ever be needed. It seems to me mainly to have use as a social signifier, as a way of saying "I'm part of the content creator in-crowd because I use 'our' words instead of the ones normally used in general society".

  69. "… and suddenly you can't remember what you were doing"

    just a moment ago I remembered that I left a pot on the stove to simmer and reduce XD and a good thing I remembered too … otherwise I'd have very dry pulled chicken and a very burned pot to clean O_O

  70. How do you explain the use of content like "contents of the backpack"

  71. as the head of a youtube channel (obviously not this one) with about 20k subs i would kill for someone to call me a content creator. almost as like a sign that ive made it into some club.

  72. By itself abstract art doesn't seem very meaningful. It is filled with meaning by "where it came from" (history, what the author had envisioned, other works of abstract and representational art that predate it, which by your definition makes abstract art content.

  73. My mom, a retired college art professor, pointed out that in art criticism, the term "content" refers to the deeper meaning of an artwork. To me it just sounds like an empty corporate buzzword, intended to label one kind of employee in the business of the internet, content creators, as opposed to designers or coders. Words are weird.

  74. I found this to be an interesting explanation and I'm glad to know explicitly why Mike doesn't like the word content. I don't use the term content very much but I find it to be a fairly neutral term when I have heard it or read it. Maybe internet media, "new media" or intermedia has a less derogatory or qualitative connotation while serving the same purpose of describing media that is distinct from non-digital old media? Don't entirely get the explanation for the pirate voice outside of it being silly and humorous, but there we are.

  75. Let's switch the word to "media". Would that be better? It's a more broadly applicable term and still describes everything you labeled as "Content". Aziz Ansari's Master of None and Hank and John Green's vlogbrothers are both media, and could be described as such without it sounding awkward. Media provider. Media producer. Mike Rugnetta is a media producer. Sounds good…

  76. I am content with this piece of content which contains the word, "Content."

  77. I actually believe content, or at least good content, is actually something the user values, not just merely consumed. Like the difference between a "good" tv episode and a “filler” episode that just goes through the motions half-heartedly for the sake of stimulation. I believe content creators measure that value with engagement and should wear their job title with pride instead of saying their content is merely consumed. Content that is engaged with is content that people connected with. Therefore I think it shows value and engagement this way on the internet that other media can't really show off, at least not in real-time.

  78. This is the first time I've ever heard that that the word content is connected to being internet based. For me, books, music, movies, etc also always fell under the umbrella of the term "content".

  79. I've been against the word sense this video and it has been impossible to explain. Most people just reject my meanings.

  80. Watching this in 2019, missing Idea Channel and how it changed my view on certain things (from cocktails to pizza, to memes…) actually only further proves the point that Mike was trying to make.

    Pretty happy about that 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *