What is Content? It’s not Your Sales Copy


Content is not the packaging! It’s what’s inside the package! Here it’s escalating panic from the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.

Once I published a list post about the 10 most common content strategy mistakes most businesses make.

In that post I promised to elaborate in a separate post on each item of the list. Here we go. Let’s start with one: the definition of content.

What is content? Everybody seems to know it. Most people seem to agree that it’s the monarch.


The history of the content monarchy

Large corporations and their CEOs have spread the “content is king” mantra for decades, even before the Internet really started out.

Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch were not the first to popularize the “content is king” meme.

Most people in business seem to prefer the broadest definition there is: anything that is “contained” by or on a website is its content.

Following this logic an online store showing only small product images and short copy and pasted descriptions along with pricing and shipping methods is a content rich site no doubt.

In short most decision makers assume that they already have content on their site: it’s their sales copy. I guess

the issue here is that a website can be quite abstract.

Just try to compare it to real life products like magazines, books or even groceries.

Can the description of a magazine, the cover text, maybe even a table of contents be the actual content of a magazine? No,

  1. the articles
  2. the photos
  3. the reports
  4. the interviews
  5. the opinion pieces

are – to some extent even the classifieds.

The same applies to a book. The actual novel is the content not the description of it on the back cover.

With groceries it’s even easier to visualize. The content is not the description of what’s inside once you buy it.

The content or contents is the actual food you see once you buy the product and open it up.


All you can eat is the content

Nobody would stuff even more descriptions of the content into the package and claim that it’s the content.

Would someone suggest to “Eat the paper inside.”? No. It’s obvious. The content has value by itself and is not just a description of what’s inside.

On the Web most potential clients who ask me for SEO services do not seem to understand that they need content in the first place.

Or like in real life they want their customers to pay first to get the content. On the Web they only display the descriptions of what you get once you pay.

The Web is different though. It has been built by and for scientists who exchanged their papers where they described scientific phenomena.


The scientific publishing model

Scientists wanted peer review. What did they show on their sites? Did they just publish the table of contents of their papers? No. They published the whole paper.

Later when the salesmen appeared on the Internet they did not study the medium but just used it as packaging. They published only the description of the content to be bought.

They still try but that’s like displaying books on TV sets. You have to adapt to the medium, the medium doesn’t adapt to you. Thus you have to understand that content is not packaging.


The value of content by itself

Content is what you see once you open the package. On the Web you have to display open packaging so that people can look at it and share it.

You don’t sell the content like in real life. The content has to be free. You are selling products and services while the content is valuable by itself.

  • Content helps to solve problems
  • it makes people laugh
  • it’s eye opening and intriguing.

Once the people love your content they will buy your real life products and services.

Not necessarily the same people who read and spread the content but others who trust them. Please don’t consider your sales copy to be your content.