If you’re a member of the creative class who’s busy building interesting things in the digital world – a blogger, vlogger, podcaster, journalist, filmmaker, animator, broadcaster, talk show host, game developer, ad agency creative, author, show runner, educator, etc…
…are you really a Content Developer, but for some reason have never really thought of yourself that way?
And while we’re on the subject, just what exactly is content anyway?
Defining content may be one of those Potter Stewart I know it when I see it type questions. We can see that challenge in action when we take a look at some excerpts from the Wikipedia entry for content:
In narrative art such as many novels and movies, content is often the subject of the plot or the events and characters contained within. In this and in more abstract art such as some painting and music content is also the details or stuff that make up the form or structure…In publishing and media, content is information and experiences created by individuals, institutions and technology to benefit audiences in venues that they value. On a webpage, content is material of interest, put there and changed frequently in order to encourage visits to that page, possibly producing income.
Keeping in mind the different purposes of an encyclopedia and a dictionary, the Wiktionary definition of content delivers something a little leaner. Content is…
Published information such as many novels, movies, music, game, webpages, etc…
There’s good work in both those approaches, but are there also potential long term weaknesses in trying to provide a comprehensive list of types of content out there and using that as the basis for our understanding?
What if rather than trying to explain content by listing specific examples we seek out a definition that can organically evolve with the fast moving changes that the content industry is experiencing without the need for circular references or an ever expanding list?
What if we approach the definition of content by increasing our focus on the audience over the developer or designer?
When it’s not taken so far as to dilute the artist’s original vision, a certain level of focus on the audience can sometimes lead to more satisfying content. Can a focus on the user also help lead us to a more satisfying definition of content?
More about that in a minute, but first let’s take a look at the current Wikipedia entry for Content Development:
Content development is the process of researching, writing, gathering, organizing, and editing information for publication on web sites. Web site content may consist of prose, graphics, pictures, recordings, movies or other media assets that could be distributed by a hypertext transfer protocol server, and viewed by a web browser…Content developers are specialized web site developers who have mastered content generation skills. They can integrate content into new or existing web sites, but they may not have skills such as script language programming, database programming and graphic design. Content developers may also be search engine optimization specialists, or Internet marketing professionals.
Does this definition concentrate a bit too much on the corporate web? I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised by that as the job title of Content Developer in the corporate world is turning into someone usually involved in maintaining a business or organization’s website.
That’s unfortunate in some ways. While being part of a corporate web team can be one role for a Content Developer, and a fulfilling role at that, if we accept these current characterizations of content and content development our view of the work and the worker may be at risk of getting out of sync once our perspective grows beyond the world of the large corporate structure.
And in the Department of Redundancy Department, does having distribution via http protocol as a requirement for being a Content Developer feel almost, well…redundant? Isn’t everyone’s work going to be on the web, if it isn’t there already? Being defined by your distribution channel feels so 20 years ago.
So with these challenges and opportunities serving as the foundation and motivation, I want to offer you the first draft of an alternative view of what defines the Content Developer.
The ContentDeveloper.com definition of a Content Developer:
A Content Developer is a member of the creative class involved in the creation, aggregation, or distribution of intellectual property designed to inspire, educate, persuade, entertain or inform the user.
Like most first drafts you’ll likely spot some potential holes. One portion that troubles me is whether the use of “intellectual property” here is too broad to be used in this context. Am also concerned that the “creative class” reference may be too trendy, self serving and ultimately unnecessary. One might also argue that the whole thing is just too abstract to be of much benefit at all. Working out issues like these are what first drafts are for though and hopefully this alternative view at a minimum serves as a first step in helping expand the collective understanding of the role of the Content Developer.
From the person supporting the contents of a corporate website, to the entrepreneur creating original entertainment programming for mobile devices, to the educator creating a new curriculum and all those artists, geeks and business persons in between, this definition gives all types of Content Developers room to breathe under the common umbrella of how content can impact the user.
As building your personal brand becomes increasingly more important, being known as a Content Developer as defined by these terms may be a title that proves to be as creative and flexible as you are.
Update: For a look at one company’s innovative job description for a Content Developer be sure and check out the post Recruiting a Content Developer.