Content Definition

Content1 is a commonly used term with regard to the Internet and other electronic media (e.g., television and DVDs). In its broader sense it refers to material which is of interest to users, such as textual information, images, music and movies, and it generally excludes (1) formatting information, such as fonts, colors, positioning and borders, (2) software that is used to provide and render (i.e., convert to its final form) it and (3) unrelated advertising2.

However, any of these excluded categories can become part of the content if they are closely related to the main topic of the web page or other media. For example, on a web page about web page design, the fonts (e.g., font families and font sizes), positioning of text, colors, etc. might be integral to what is described in the text. Likewise, on a web page about software, the software used to create or render it might be relevant to the topic discussed in the text, and thus might be part of the content.

Advertisements on a web page or in other digital media are not content unless (1) they are closely related to the topic of the media and thus the user might go to the web page not only to read the text about a topic but to see the advertisements or unless (2) the topic of the page is about advertisements (e.g., a study of how advertisements are designed or of user responses).

The development of content has been a major issue for the Internet. That is, it is widely believed that the web and other Internet services provide very little in the way of high quality content as compared with their potential. This situation is generally attributed to both the high cost of producing such content and the difficulty for providers to recoup such costs.

The inclusion of advertising is the most commonly used technique for generating revenue to help offset the costs of providing content. However, it has the disadvantages that the revenue can easily fall short of the costs and that it can distract and annoy users of the content.

Another solution, which is sometimes used by online newspapers and magazines as a supplement to their free content, is to provide premium content, which is content that is available only to users who pay a monthly or annual fee, typically through a credit card. Also studied has been the use of micropayments, which are very small (e.g., a few cents) charges per page view that are automatically deducted from some amount that the user has prepaid or will pay at a later date.

1This use of content is as a noun, and its accent is on the first syllable. The commonly used adjective with the same spelling has its accent on the second syllable and has a very different meaning.

2Although formatting information, software used to render the content, unrelated advertising, etc. are not generally part of content itself, they can be virtually inseparable from it in the case of ordinary users, who are often not familiar with (or who are not interested in) techniques for extracting the content.

Created December 29, 2005.
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