There’s a saying in the online world that, if you’ve spent much time around marketing blogs, you’ll probably have heard: content is king. It’s usually attributed to Bill Gates, some time in the mid-90s, but for the purposes of this post, its origin is irrelevant. Instead, I want to talk about the idea of ‘content’, and why I think it’s a pernicious one, particularly if you’re interested in a creative lifestyle rather than simply making money online.
The phrase ‘content is king’ is most frequently used in blogging terms i.e. you need plenty of quality content on your blog if you want it to succeed financially. That, in its most basic sense, I wouldn’t disagree with. However, in recent years, I’ve seen the word ‘content’ bandied around in a number of other spheres. Content is no longer just what you put on your blog: it’s your fiction, your music, your podcasts, your artwork, your photos of your cat. Again, at its most basic, all of this is ‘content’ – but lumping it all together creates a problem.
You see, not all media is created equal, or at least I don’t believe it should be. That novel you’ve spent a year slaving over isn’t equivalent to someone’s newest Tumblr post; a portrait done in oil paints by a skilled artist isn’t equal to that Vine you just filmed of your cat knocking things over.
These are exaggerations, of course, and things become more difficult to compare, let alone place a value on, as they either become more similar or when they’re in completely different media (how do you decide whether a masterful painting or a classic novel has more value, for example? The answer is always going to be subjective). This isn’t about deciding which is ‘better’, though, but rather about believing not everything is the same.
And that’s where my problem with content comes in. As creators, we’re constantly hearing this ‘content is king’ message, and being told that we’ll only be more successful if we keep producing more, more, more. Trying to follow this mantra, though, doesn’t take into account either the personal value we place on our art, nor the time that’s gone into it; the world would be a far poorer place if every piece of art, music and literature was suddenly replaced by low-grade ‘get rich quick’ blog-posts and tweets, in a misguided attempt to produce more ‘content’.
Maybe this sounds a bit snobby, but I don’t mean it to be – there’s undeniably a place in the world for business blogs and cat videos, after all. I’m also well aware that some of the media I consider an important part of my life would be considered trash by others, and vice versa. The important thing, really, is that whatever medium we create in, we take the time to think about what we place value on and why, and to make sure that the rush for ‘content’ never overwhelms our desire to make art, in whatever form that takes.
More is not necessarily better, quantity shouldn’t rule over quality, and sometimes you just have to focus on the passion that’s eating away at your heart, no matter how long that takes, or how much ‘content’ you could have created in the meantime.