The Quest for a Definition: What is Content?

what is content
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I wrote a primer about content marketing (coming Tuesday this week) for people who may not understand… well… content marketing. It seems the whole thing just raised another question, “what is content?”

Don’t feel foolish, everyone has a different point of view. Is it a white paper? Is it an ad in a magazine?

So, I did what one does best, I went to Google. I have my answers, 2,180,000,000 results later (which includes con’tent, as in happy or satisfied). Let’s take a look at what I found.


TopRank Marketing Blog Post

Lee Odden did the same thing, but asked specific people how they define content, and summarized those responses to the following:

  • Content is Information (practical, functional, tactical)
  • Content is Experience (Useful, Purposeful, Outcome Oriented)
  • Content is Too Ambiguous to Define

When looking for a definition, go to a dictionary. Here’s what defines content as:

  1. Text matter of a document or publication in any form. Content is both information and communication: the sum total of the freshness, readability, relevancy, and usefulness of the information presented, and the manner in which it is presented.
  2. Essence of a communicated message or discourse, as comprehended or received by its intended audience.
  3. ‘Glue’ that makes a website ‘sticky’ makes visitors return, and keeps them from leaving.



The “Content (Media)” definition in Wiki actually references Lee Odden’s post above, so we’re on the right track.

“In publishing, art, and communication, content is the information and experience(s) directed towards an end-user or audience. Content is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts. Content can be delivered via many different media including the Internet, television, audio CDs, books, magazines, and live events, such as conferences and stage performances.”


Types of Content (a Sample)

The one thing that it seems everyone agrees on, are the types of content, like the following examples:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • Videos
  • Templates
  • eBooks
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters, etc.


Conclusion – How do you define “content”?

By far and away, my favourite definition is that by Heidi Cohen.

Content is high quality, useful information that conveys a story, presented in a contextually relevant manner with the goal of soliciting an emotion or engagement. Delivered live, or asynchronously, content can be expressed using a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio and/or presentations. When used for marketing purposes, content should incorporate the organization’s branding, be void of any form of promotion, and use a measurable call-to-action.”

Actually, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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