What’s All This ‘Content’ Everyone is Talking About?


Content & Channels

Content.  The new buzzword for information in any media.

Information pros are trying to classify it all by title, type, category, genre, label…  and give job titles to the people that produce it.

At IBM we called ‘content’ information products.  We had Information Developers that were writers, graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, editors, managing editors, etc..

We created manuals, online help, online tutorials, user training material, sales training, videos, books sold in bookstores, live shows, marketing material, trade show content, software interfaces, websites, posters, job aids, product related news, customer success stories, and more…. We used all media types (print, email, web, other Internet online, disc, CD, DVD, video, audio, even an occasional billboard).

We categorized information products by horizontal and vertical market segments.  Everything was classified and categorized and groups of information developers were reorganized over and over based on the types of information, the type of market or product – all looking for efficiencies.  I don’t know if the job titles or information categories exist anymore at IBM – so much for following a structure and categories for info that a computer multinational can define in a particular point in time.

Every decade has had different titles for the same or similar stuff.  Some was taken from the publishing industry.  Some from tech.  Some from advertising.  Even more from marketing.  A fresh information category name became the new shiny bullet that would solve everything – Not quite.

Brand Journalism is a title that seems to have stuck since about 2002, even though I’ve been doing it since the early 1980’s and others before that. I founded and host the Brand Journalism LinkedIn Group.  Join or follow here.

My favorite title for what we do – ‘content’ – is creative non-fiction.

Sometimes we do it with stories.  Sometimes with other formats or genres.  It can promote a product, a brand, or teach something.  Sometimes it’s not so creative but it’s extremely helpful to the person that needs the information right at that moment.  Often it’s just purely interesting to the right person at the right time.  Many times it is used to help convince a boss or organization that a brand has the right answer to the perplexing problem they need help with and the content helps them understand.  The information sold the solution.

The classification systems for all this ‘stuff’ is flawed.  Journalists think their information is one thing.  Content marketers think their information is something else.  Brand journalists are caught in the middle.  Often it is all the same thing.

As the world of information evolves, transforms, is flipped upside-down, the traditional classification system for types of content becomes irrelevant.  The important bottom line becomes: Is it helpful or interesting to an audience?  Does it help the audience with a problem they are trying to solve or inform them about something they really want to know?

You can call it what you want…. If it works for the goal intended, I call it successful.

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