Coming to terms, literally, with what we mean by the word content remains a work in progress. I can be accused, rightfully, of taking an approach to the task that, in the name of pursuing some rigour, can have the effect of making the entire topic exceedingly abstract. While I might defend that approach at times, there are other times when I am reminded that it is also worthwhile to stop and view content from the perspective of the people who create it and the people for whom it is created. When you do this, the subject of content, with its management and publishing, becomes much more tangible.
And this brings me to the topic of “connecting with content”. Not surprisingly we see that there are at least two meanings rolled into this seemingly harmless phrase.
One sense is that of connecting with content which is about establishing a direct connection with content and an appreciation for its value quite apart from any theoretical ties to data or information. When you talk to writers, designers, animators, or technical illustrators you quickly get a sense for the complex relationship between these people, the audiences that they have in mind, and the content they are working on. More and more, these people have a very clear understanding that their work will need to be effective in a variety of media venues and to serve a number of ends. In many cases, these practitioners have been advancing their mastery of tools that are themselves evolving rapidly in order to expose more and more of the inner details so that they can manipulate how the content will behave in this multitude of scenarios.
But what is most striking, to me at least, about the perspective of the content creators is the intensity of the personal connection between creators and their content. It is in fact not surprising when you consider the complexity of the task they are performing in juggling the audiences, media formats, usage scenarios and subjects. It is a profoundly creative task to integrate all these factors so as to provide an expression that somehow connects them into a coherent whole. Inescapably, the content produced retains the imprint of its creator. Recollecting some of my own experiences, it is clear that content leaves an indelible imprint on its creator as well. Content, it seems, is formed from, and then exhibits, connections.
Another sense is that of connecting with content which refers to the multifaceted and multilateral connections that are made when content is transmuted into information products and transactions. The purchase order establishes a connection. The legal notice establishes a connection. A love letter establishes a connection, especially if it is reciprocated. And for the people creating content, it is the prospect of making these connections that guides their efforts and frames, very specifically, how they create the content. These envisioned, or intended, connections provide the primary context for their work. Ultimately, they are thinking about the people that they are trying to reach with a message. In this regard, content is about creating connections.
At the end of the day, it will be the impact of content, once it has been enacted as an information transaction, that will determine whether its creator has been successful or not. The question that will be asked, or should be, is whether or not content creators have, through their efforts, made a constructive connection. And if they have made such a connection, as they so frequently do, the organizations involved benefit from seeing business conducted, the recipients benefit by receiving information they can use, and the creators benefit from the knowledge that their creativity has made a real difference.
This post is really a testament to the people who do the real work of communication, the creators of content, whose perspectives we should keep in mind when some of us (no names mentioned) are framing definitions, or designing technology solutions, for these all-important content connections.