In the new world of the digital blogosphere, companies and individuals look to create interesting, informative posts that will grab the attention of their audience. In order to be successful, it is important to understand the difference between copy and content, and which of these best suits your needs. While they may appear at first to be quite similar, it is important for writers and publishers to understand that they are as different to one another as Wuthering Heights is to Twilight. While these printed works of fiction are undoubtedly read by hundreds of dedicated literary souls, they tell very different stories.
Before the internet, most of the world’s printed words were separated by a wall in the newsroom—journalists on one side, marketer and salesmen on the other— and never the twain should meet, but for every other Thursday in that dreary employee meeting. They were kept separate to protect the integrity of the news, and ultimately, to gain credibility with an audience who was cynical about the motivation behind choosing what news went into print, and what news to ignore.
While our society has become no less cynical— as illustrated by the heated debates where CNN and Fox News have been pitted against one another in the fight for global Gladiatorial supremacy— our access to “news” and information has exploded. There is no longer a deep line between “truth” and “sales”, but there is one, however fine, still separating content from copy.
For professional writers, or anyone hoping to express their copy/content in a reputable way, there are still rules for writing one or the other. The nuances are subtle, and often come down to just a few important differences.
Content: Telling the Audience
Content is, technically speaking, written to argue, inform or entertain about a topic or niche. It is written so that their readers are easily able to understand the subject at hand. Traditionally, content was meant to stand the test of time, and that holds true today. It includes books, newspapers, magazines, and white papers. Even when content is intended to be light-hearted or numerous, it still, very much, takes itself seriously.
In the content sphere, the writer’s voice creates a lasting relationship between the text and the audience. Credibility, authenticity, and personality are all paramount in creating successful content which establishes a connection between the audience and the writer that marks them as equals.
At the heart of content is a need to generate thoughts, ideas and opinions about the subject at hand. This incites conversations and discussions, often between audience members as they sit at their next meeting of Oprah’s Book Club. Content connects readers to the topic at hand, and leaves them with information that affects or affirms their own personal world-view.
Copy: Selling the Audience
Copy, on the other hand, is fashioned, not only to be informative, but also to promote, market or raise awareness of a particular product, company or cause. Rather than lasting in printed form, copy is intended to linger on in the mind, traveling with the host as it reminds and persuades them to make choices based on the information gathered.
Although copy is often fun, easy-to-read and generally entertaining, it takes its brand or product very seriously. After all, the product is the entire reason copy is created, crafted in a way to fit and arguably benefit the audience’s lifestyle. Copywriting is a craft in and of itself. While credibility still counts, the writer’s individual personality, or ‘voice’ may prove to be distracting as the relationship cultivated by copy is intended to be between the customer and the company which provides the product. The voice of the writer is best removed from this relationship because it is the intention of the text to explain why this product or service benefits them.
Copy is a call-to-arms. Preparing audiences for the charge towards the latest Taylor Swift break-up album or a sixth One Direction T-shirt. It is intended to move an audience to do or to purchase something. Effective copy not only entices writers, but reminds them why they need the subject or object at hand.
The Knowledgeable Reader
It is important to understand the differences between content and copy, because many of today’s audiences are very sensitive to the ultimate goal of each. Presenting copywriting as genuine content may be off-putting for some audiences, who are reluctant to accept an obvious sales pitch woven in to what they would otherwise consider a reputable article which provides thoughtful information.
It takes a flexible writer, aware of the voice needed for content versus the voice required for copy to interweave one with the other. Otherwise, your War and Peace may suddenly be full of product placement Motorola phones, which will ultimately chase audiences away, and send your credibility down the drains to join Fifty Shades of Grey.