Joseph Nathan Cohen

Department of Sociology, CUNY Queens College, New York, NY

What is “Content Creation”?

What is "content creation"?

This post describes the concept of “content creation” as used here. Content creation is the act of creating original texts, images, audio, video, or other experiences for mass distribution. The term is generally used with reference to creating these things for Internet platforms, like:

Though discussions about “content creation” usually focus on these kinds of “Web 2.0” platforms, these creators share many similarities with people who create content for legacy media.


This concept’s invocation in the English-language literature began to rise in the early-1990s among software developers, media regulators, and media scholars. This visualization, from Google Books Ngram Viewer shows the term’s usage in published English-language works.

In the early-1990s, these discussions generally focused on the practicalities of designing and regulating computer systems for disseminating “content” through “media.” Media are communications technologies to enable human communication (like newspapers, radio, or TV). Content is the communications that are sent through those media. Those interested the design of society’s media system used the term “content creators” to describe the people who would use their technology to communicate with audiences.

In the following decades, “Web 2.0” Internet platforms grew in popularity. These platforms specialized in delivering user-generated content, and the success of these platforms depended on encouraging people to develop more and better content. New media firms searched for ways to train and incentivize users to generate new types of content to attract audiences, doing things like developing training materials and profit-sharing programs. A larger proportion of the population was drawn into mass communications, and many found ways to attract audiences, earn money, and influence society.

On the one hand, modern content creation is a new phenomenon. More people than ever are participating in mass communications. We are developing new informational and cultural outlets that serve and coordinate dialogue on topics and among people that were underserved or unserved under previous-generation media. On the other hand, the players, practices, and perspectives that I have observed in the content creation community are rooted in longstanding practices, tasks, and job functions that have guided mass communicators for a long time. Although the Internet has introduced new playing fields in which mass communicators can operate, many of the rules and strategies that were at play in older media are still influential today.

Studying Content Creation

Why study content creation? In my view, there are at least two good reasons.

  1. Professional Application: Learning how to create and distribute content can be useful even if you aren’t employed in mass communications. These skills are particularly valuable in the New York City area, a major mass communications hub.
  2. Understanding the Evolution of Culture. Understanding how content creators operate can help explain the behavior and workings of our culture. There are economic, legal, and larger socio-cultural forces that shape which ideas or experiences are made available to us. Understanding these forces can help us make sense of our cultural environment.

The content on this site offers material related to these two endeavors.

Interested in Studying Content Creation?

Are you interested in studying content creation?  I offer typically offer a course on it during the year, and can recommend other excellent classes taught by very good faculty.  Come visit me during office hours.

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