I’ve been working on the web since 1995, and I’ve been calling the text, images, and media on web pages “content” since around that same time. I consider myself a writer and web designer. And in both of those roles I have worked as a content provider. I created graphics for the Netcom personal web page customers to use. I wrote documentation that went online. Later on in my career I’ve created videos and podcasts for web pages as well as all of the many documents I’ve written for About.com and other websites. Also, as a web designer and CMS builder, I have worked with other content providers to get their words, images, and media on websites.
So it surprised me when I read in an article recently that calling web page writing, images, and media “content” was somehow offensive. And calling the photographers, writers, artists, etc. who created that content “content creators” was somehow trivializing their efforts.
What are we supposed to call it? Sure, I am happy to refer to an individual as a writer or photographer or graphic artist. But when I’m referring to the portions of the web page outside of the design, layout, typography and so on, “content” is the most general term. And when referring to the people who build that content, “content creators” seems most accurate. After all, I don’t consider myself a graphic artist even if I have created graphics for web pages. I’m also not a photographer, even though I’ve posted photos that I’ve taken. But if I were to get photos from Ansel Adams, I wouldn’t call him a writer, even if he wrote descriptive text about his photos.
Being a Creative is Hard
You spend hours, days, weeks, or even months on a project and then your customers come and look at it for just a few seconds before pronouncing it “good” (or “bad”). You will get lots of positive comments and feedback but when you ask for even a fraction of the amount you spent to create your content, your customers look at you incredulously and seem to feel that you’re being unreasonable that you want to feed your children and pay your mortgage.
It’s especially difficult online, as many online companies pay little or nothing for the content, whatever form it takes. And there are always more and more novice writers, photographers, and artists who are happy to give their work away for the chance at “exposure.”
But this has always been the case. And while I don’t recommend working for free, lots of people will want you to.
Does the Name of Your Creativity Really Matter?
The fact is that whether you like it or not, “content” is the term that companies and website owners use to describe the elements of their pages that go beyond the design. It is not intended to offend anyone or belittle their efforts. It is just a generic term.
And in the web industry, this term is here to stay. There was a time back around 2000-2005 when some companies were calling content “digital assets.” And they called the management tools “digital asset management” or DAM. But DAMs lost out to CMS (content management systems) and the items they were managing became “content.”
The trick is to keep enjoying creating whatever you create regardless of what it’s called. And hopefully you get paid for your content in more than just exposure.
What Do You Call Yourself or the People Who Create Content for Your Sites?
Is calling them “content creators” offensive to you? Let me know in the comments what you think. Personally, I call myself a writer and web designer as I mentioned, but I don’t mind being referred to as a content creator or creative when it comes up.