When the Four Horsemen ride down from beyond Canis Major to spark the long-promised Apocalypse, you can be certain that among those that get taken out first will be people who these days call everything "content."
When I looked up "con·tent" on Dictionary.com, it gave 11 different meanings, most them along the lines of "something that is contained" or "the chapters or other formal divisions of a book or document" or "volume, area, or extent," and even something unintelligible from math: "the greatest common divisor of all the coefficients of a given polynomial." Nowhere to be seen was "any sort of crap I can dream up to sell stuff but make it sound more important by calling it 'content'."
The other day I read a jargon-laden column about how to get users to "engage" (the Internet era word for "look at") with e mail promotions. Throughout, the author kept calling what was in the e mails "content." Nobody writes or makes pictures anymore. No -- they produce "content." As if the very label itself can elevate drivel to something that can be "monetized."
I swear, the other day, Emma -- the lazy Black Lab who fails utterly to keep the deer from eating my lilies -- mumbled that she was unhappy about the "content" of what was in her food bowl that day.
If you have been in the online industry long enough, you realize that jargon is the lingua franca, especially between sellers and buyers, borrowers and lenders, entrepreneurs and backers and especially between two strangers chatting at a conference or summit cocktail party. It reminds me of the days when ganja always had exotic names like Maui Wowi or Panama Red or Northern Lights instead of "just some shit we grew between the rows of corn in Jersey."
It is as if the more obfuscating the explanation, the more important your business must be. So "being clear" has become "transparent" and "making progress" has become "traction." Nobody "pulls stuff together" anymore, they "curate" it. And nobody in hell knows where or what the "next level" is. Or the exact meaning of "reach", "scale" or "engagement."
But "content" has spread like head lice in middle school and now is used by dead tree guys, film and TV guys, and just about everybody who wants you to be in awe of their creative genius. If it gets any worse, I can hear waiters asking if you'd like another glass of "content" or the auto mechanic expounding on the problems with the "content" of your engine.
Feel free to call this column "the usual swill" or "another warped perspective," but, please -- for the sake of the future of communications -- don't call it "content."