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What the heck is content anyway?

I am a part of the generation that has never known a life without the existence of the Internet. I can remember being seven years old in 2003 when Britney Spears’ song Toxic came out. My older sister showed me the music video that was hosted on America Online’s landing page. This music video was definitely not meant for a seven year old audience. This memory nevertheless underscores the fact that the technological and digital revolutions define and identify a whole generation of people in a big way. The development of the Internet which has increased in scope almost exponentially has resulted in an overwhelming amount of content on the Internet. The web in a way has also changed the way we define and understand content. Adam Vincenzini of defines content as being, “anything that can be ‘published’”. This made me question what it means to be published in the digital age. In this era anything can be published as easily as pressing ‘post’ on Twitter. I wanted to dig deeper and broaden my understanding of the many different types of content that exist in this age of communication.

Content can be categorized in one hundred different ways and it can sometimes be hard to understand what content is. Is a meme considered to be content? I would undoubtedly hold the answer to that question as being yes since someone had to create that composition out of other pieces of content in order to make something new that can be appreciated for comedic value and that sometimes can generate thousands of likes; memes are a truly commodifiable source of content. This made me question more mundane pieces of media like simple animated gifs that make for a good animation to represent a webpage loading up. Adam Vincenzini goes on to list 50 examples of what content can be. Prior to reading this non-exhaustive list I assumed that content could only be things that generate some kind of social value but upon researching I have concluded that content is not limited only to that commodification. Vincenzini offers an interesting example of ratings being content that I would only consider to be mundane text. Upon further review I can understand how a rating could be content. Many people, including myself, see reviews that are often written up by non-professional critics whose opinions shape our perceptions towards subjects, places, or content. A rating, if it is a 5-star stellar rating, can generate a lot of buzz about a subject or place or even object. This can result in more money going into the creator of the content that is being reviewed. Content is non-exhaustive and the list of what is considered to be content is ever changing in the digital age.

Since I will be and have been creating content in my academic endeavors I decided with the help of my Topics in Digital Rhetoric class that researching and reviewing different types of articles that use content in a unique way would be beneficial to my understanding of content. I am a regular consumer of several unique podcasts online. Podcasts are one of my favorite forms of content to consume because as a communication academic I am very intrigued by discussions that covers a breadth of different topics. The article, Envoy: A Case of Podcast Potential written by Theresa Cramer in the EContent online magazine, lists out some reasons why companies are beginning to rely on podcasts as a way to create an abundance of content. Cramer discusses that using content to market a brand, business, or idea is in the fore of public focus when it comes to consuming entertainment. Heike Young in her blog post Content Marketing in 2018: 5 Trends You’ll Need to Know writes a footnote at the bottom of the post stating that the podcast of the blog has changed format and that it now follows a more popular narrative style format as opposed to general interviews. This made me think how of my favorite podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, generates content for the host but also for his hundreds of different guests. Sometimes the episodes have a distinct underlying purpose like generating buzz about a comedians new comedy special.

Content has a powerful way of setting and changing public opinion. Content relies on memes that have been passed down through many generations and when these memes are used in an engaging way content can generate press about something that might otherwise remain underground. The Internet and digital revolutions have changed the way we view and define content and with the future development of tech we can rightly assume that in the near future we may be using content in a totally new and engaging way, like augmented and virtual reality (but that is a discussion that warrants an entirely new post).

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