Ten years ago, the difference between copy and content mystified me. Why did we need this new word, content, I wondered? It seemed a pretentious way of elevating words to a higher plane when they happened to be published on a web site. It seemed like a gymnastic effort to avoid the word writing.
Now I'm enjoying a moment of clarity. (Got to grab them when they raise their little heads! This too will pass...)
Over time, the two words have come to refer to different kinds of writing.
OK, what follows is gross generalisation. That's allowed.
Copy is what copywriters do. Copywriters are often freelance writers employed on contract. Copy is often strong on marketing and persuasion. Copy is words only.
When a web site is developed as a project, copywriters are often called in at the last minute to plug the lorem ipsem spots. Copy is meant to be temporary, but on the Web it often lives long past its expiry date. Copywriters are writing specialists.
Content is solid and worthy. Content is a business asset. Content endures and must be planned, managed, reviewed, refreshed and culled. Content is typically written by subject experts, not writing experts. Content includes video, audio and graphics—and copy.*
Know what I mean? Do you agree?
And that's why we now have content strategists, but not copy strategists.
* Thanks to Kristina Mausser!
Image: Copy cats, from http://creativedifference.wordpress.com