On Content

13 September, 2020

Unlike some writers I know and read, I don’t obsess about every little detail. I don’t obsess about every word. I don’t lose sleep over every term. I doubt that makes me unique among writers, but I really don’t sweat the small stuff.

But there is one word I’m struggling with, and have been for a while now. That word? Content. I’m definitely not a fan of that term. I admit, though, that I’m as guilty of referring to what I find on the web as content as much as the next person.

That has to stop.


Content has the connotation of something that’s quickly and cheaply made. Of something that’s mass produced, generic, homogeneous.

Content implies something without a distinct voice. Something that’s not well crafted. Something that tries to draw eyeballs instead of helping and informing. Something written for algorithms and not people.

Content implies something, to paraphrase the late Harlan Ellison, that bursts into flame and turns to ash shortly after it’s published.

Content is something that you read or view and then throw away. Something to be forgotten as quickly as it was read.

When I started to seriously put words to paper in the 1980s, I never thought about writing content. I wrote articles. I wrote essays. I wrote reviews. I even took stabs at writing short stories. I knew that most of what I wrote (and would write in the future) wasn’t for the ages. But that work had more than just immediate import or impact. To be honest, I still get positive feedback on some of the articles and essays I wrote in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

I don’t think I’d still be getting a good response to what I’ve written if I’d focused on churning out as much content as I could.

From this date forward, I’m banishing the term content from my writing (unless it’s in the pejorative). And you can slap me if you find that term in what I write from now on.

Scott Nesbitt