By Kevin O'Keefe

The Problem With The Word “Content” In Legal Publishing

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“You can tell a lot about a person and how they think about their work based on whether or not they use “content” to describe what they do. A photographer who says that he is creating “content” for his YouTube channel is nothing more than a marketer churning out fodder to fill the proverbial Internet airwaves with marketing noise.”

This from longtime and widely respected, digital publisher, Om Malik in his newsletter this week. 

I’ve been thinking again about the word “content” as it refers to what we do as people – our art, our work.

“Content” seems an ill-chosen word for all net publishing. Do we call an artist’s work, content? A musician’s? An author’s? A columnist’s? A reporter’s?

A lawyer’s brief or memorandum their content filed with the court?

To refer to this work as content cheapens the person’s work. 

Om’s right:

“My website has my words, my interviews, my photos, and my identity — what it doesn’t have, as far as I’m concerned, is “content.””

When I started blogging and, shortly thereafter, LexBlog, I thought what a wonderful form of writing, of publishing, this blogging thing.

Our thoughts, insight, learning, passion and engagement on display for all the world to see.

We talked to each other, blog to blog. Never did we say, post some “content” to the web, we’ll lob some “content” back.

No gatekeepers as with magazines and journals. No where near the energy and stamina required when writing a book. But like a book, lawyers and I could learn, meet people and make a name for ourselves.

Whatever blogging was, it was different than writing articles. Certainly, no one used the term, “content marketing” back in the day.

Heck, why would we? We were giving of ourselves to help people and connect with those with whom we wanted to gain trust and get to know. Much more than “content” was in play.

Om’s hypothesis “content” relates to how the Internet has evolved into a highly quantifiable entity. 

Page views, eyeballs, social shares, comments, and ranking. Marketers and communication professionals, many producing good work, needed a word to tell customers what they were measuring. “Content” it was.

“But words matter, and we can choose which ones we use to talk about what we produce and the things we admire and cherish. I encounter so much imaginative work on the web, and I guess I just can’t help but be peeved when I hear it discussed (often by the creators themselves) as if it is essentially marketing copy.

And call me old fashioned, but I am happy to keep writing even if no “eyeballs” are watching!”

I guess I am old fashioned as well. I enjoy writing having no idea whether anyone is watching via stats, eyeballs et al.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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