"[Radiohead] were so into the net around the time of Kid A," he says. "Really thought it might be an amazing way of connecting and communicating. And then very quickly we started having meetings where people started talking about what we did as 'content'. They would show us letters from big media companies offering us millions in some mobile phone deal or whatever it was, and they would say all they need is some content. I was like, what is this 'content' which you describe? Just a filling of time and space with stuff, emotion, so you can sell it?"
Even if you have no love for Radiohead (and I know a few who don't), this is spot-on. Such are the side effects of a market economy where keeping a pipeline filled — putting books on a shelf, not letting the screens in a multiplex go blank — is more important than making a connection to another person, let alone cultivating an audience.
I know one fellow who jokingly billed himself in his signature block as a "content provider" long before such a term started to take on the glum significance many of us, not just Thom Yorke, now reflexively associate with it. Today, the only people using terms like "content provider" with a straight face are the folks who serve up masscult, because that's about what it amounts to: content, with all the genericism and innocuousness that such a term implies.
Music is not meant to merely give the air something to do, just as writing is not simply meant to pack a shelf from one end to another and TV can be more than just chewing gum for the eyes. But when the whole mechanism for bringing things to market consists of being nothing more than a supply line for empty shelves, then content is all it becomes.