Who gets to decide what is “content”? –Towards a definition of “Content”

I have been following a discussion on John Scalzi’s blog, http://whatever.scalzi.com, about an article that the New York Times published about bloggers starting blogs and then realizing that they did not have an audience and abandoning the blogs. The conversation has wandered into the territory of what constitutes “content”.

While I can understand that personal communication between people could be considered to not be content, isn’t that the reason for writing? One person wrote in on the discussion that content used to mean anything that there was a permanent record of and that conversations were not considered content because there was no record of the conversations. But now there is potentially a written record. I would also argue that what might not be news to some, and therefore not “content”, may indeed be substantiative information to others. I have read the newspapers of small towns, newspapers that were healthier than some of the big city papers, that read as a daily listing of almost gossipy happenings. I would say that this is “content”.

I have read books that were a collection of anonymous postcards or found lists. Are these very personal communications “content”? Not “content”?

Are brief twitter tweets “content”? I would argue yes, depending on intent and interpretation.

I am going to propose a definition of content. This is my definition of content. Content is some communication that relays information of value to a reader. Only the reader of the communication gets to decide if it is actually content and this is based on their subjective experience and evaluation.

To my mind, anything else potentially creates restrictive categories that limit freedom of expression. And who gets to decide the categories?