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If it's on the Web, it must be ‘content'

Somewhere, an artistic youngster is dreaming of growing up to be a “content producer.”

In the terminology brought on by the Internet, “content” has come to stand in for film, music, video, photography, journalism, fiction, animation, graphics — anything that can draw “eyeballs” to a site and therefore advertising dollars.

It can be dismaying to anyone who loves movies, falls deeply into novels or relishes gazing at great artwork.

Orson Welles' “Citizen Kane”? Content. The New York Times' latest in-depth series? Content. Dostoevsky's “The Brothers Karamazov”? For a heady Web site, it's simply content.

Even the sites built on networking like Facebook and MySpace would be nothing if users didn't set up their pages with photos, bios, music or little notes on what they think of political candidates.

The oft-cited argument goes that “content is king.” Your Web site isn't anything without it.

But there is a counterpoint that says content is well and good, but that connectivity is where the real bucks are. Mathematician Andrew Odlyzko, who's head of the University of Minnesota's Digital Technology Center, says that the greater potential of the Internet is in its network and pipelines. For example, he cites that the telephone industry dwarfs Hollywood.

We won't try to settle this debate here and now, but only moan and wail about the homogenization of so many art forms and crafts. Sure, the Internet levels the playing field between professionals and amateurs. But that doesn't mean all forms of creation need to be rolled into a ball and flippantly summarized as “content.”

Which, naturally, is all this article is.