word of the week ‘content’ (kɑntɛnt).
On Wednesday, the totalcontent Twitter account had a new follower called Content Unlimited. And on the very same day, I was contacted by a Chinese domain registration service enquiring whether I claimed the rights to the name ‘totalcontent’ as an international brand, or the domain names for China, India, Hong Kong and Japan.
Suddenly, it seems, our 12-year-old company name has (global) currency.As it happens, I’m a bit conflicted about totalcontent these days. Because, as with so many words (or conjunctions of words), its context and meaning has changed. As someone who spends a good deal of time naming things for clients — we’ve come up with everything from shirts to colleges to mobile phones and a cheese — it’s perhaps something I should be more wary of… but on the other hand, there’s not a jot you can do about it.‘Content’ has an entirely different connotation than it did a dozen years ago. I originally homed in on it because of the slight play on ‘content’ = ‘what is contained’, and ‘content = ‘peaceful happiness’. But today it tends to just mean stuff, filler, goop… if a website is a bucket, then content is the stuff you fill it with — generic pictures, words, headlines, links etc. It’s become a tag with no romance or resonance — you buy content by the yard, it fills the space, no more no less.But clearly, this doesn’t put too many people off. Content services have come to contaminate the Internet, selling words as a commodity — off-the-shelf articles ‘optimised for SEO’, or new material ‘competitively priced’ by length or quality level. A quick Google search unearths Content Now, Star Content, Constant Content, Pure Content, Snappy Content Writing (could be snappier), Content Equals Money, Content Proz, and many, many more. Occasionally I get emails from similarly named companies offering to help out with my content. Thanks for that.I’m not going to throw stones in the dark. For all I know, Content Equals Money may have the verbal virtuosity of Jane Austen. I’ll just observe that there’s a difference between buying a suit from Burton or Savile Row. Ours tend to fit a lot better and don’t fall apart at the seams so readily.The word ‘copy’ is one step up from ‘content’ — functional and commercial, but at least honed and targeted. And ‘writing’, of course, implies real craft and dexterity, the ability to create light and shade, achieve emotional nuance, make people chuckle or empathise.So all in all, the service we offer couldn’t be further removed from providing ‘content’. You’d hope that people think of our name as a kind of knowing, post-modern joke, a clever anti-name that flies in the face of the word’s current meaning. Like Andy Warhol’s Factory or Factory Records, hotbeds of creativity and originality with a wink in their nomenclature.Next week, maybe we’ll move on to the ‘total’ bit.