Is content strategy dead?

How Meta’s recent switch to content design could reflect a much broader transformation in how we imagine virtual experiences.


Kelsey O'Connor

2 years ago | 4 min read

How Meta’s recent switch to content design could reflect a much broader transformation in how we imagine virtual experiences.

A few weeks into the making of the movie “Her”, director Spike Jonze had a revelation. What he had thought would be a groundbreaking piece on the dangers of technology in a dystopian world wasn’t really about technology at all. It was about people.

The film is among one of the most thought-provoking science fiction movies we’ve seen in the last decade for a number of reasons, but among the more interesting is the discourse it inspires around the power of devices to touch upon and evoke our most human characteristics. The storyline follows Theo, a lonely divorcee struggling with the mundanity of life, as he experiences affection, attachment and heartbreak at the hands of an AI bot by the name of Samantha.

When we consider today’s virtual assistants, many of us can listen and engage with one like Amazon’s Alexa and consciously denote that we are not speaking with a human voice. In “Her”, not only is the voice human — but it’s that of Scarlett Johansson, an actress the majority of viewers are familiar with and can have an unconscious predisposition toward, whether that be like or dislike.

“Her” isn’t a great movie because of the technology. It’s nothing we are over-the-top impressed with and to add to the uncomfortableness of watching the film, the devices are pretty much what we’re already expecting to see come to fruition in the next coming decades.

The reason we are fascinated by the movie and Joaquin Phoenix’s character in particular is because of the breadth and depth of human emotions we are witness to as a result of him engaging with something that is computer-generated and therefore, could never possess the same capability.

“Her” provides an interesting lens into the human experience as it relates to technology. Though many of us were brought up to the age-old saying “TV rots your brain”, the thought that technology could only numb our senses seems irrelevant at this point when in so many cases we see how intensely it can actually amplify our emotions.

This exact discourse of human psychology in the scope of technological advances is what led the content strategy team at Facebook, now Meta, to rebrand as content designers.

Content Strategy vs. Content Design

Photo by GCIO

The term content strategy is somewhat of an oldhead in the age of the internet. Content strategists have been around for decades — their key objective being to produce content that drives business outcomes. On the other end of the spectrum, content design is a much flashier and newer term that has little to do with benefitting a business, and everything to do with benefitting a user.

Back in October 2020, Facebook Design released an article explaining their decision to switch from content strategy to content design. The change came well before a much more newsworthy announcement, a shift in the company’s name from Facebook to Meta. Meta, encompassing Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and several other products, plans to delve into the world of VR and AR like we’ve never seen before.

As a result? Companies are scrambling for people who can not only plan and manage content, but anticipate the consequences of it in a society that is completely unfamiliar with this type of technology.

In the past, content was supplementary to the experience. A customer would go online, surf the web a bit, find a product, and make a purchase. Now in the field of ever-growing social media and virtual experiences, the content is the product, meaning it has to both provide an experience while simultaneously guiding users through it.

In short, the actual practice of content strategy is not dead and could likely never fade. However, the term itself appears to be increasingly outdated as we age into uncharted territory; virtual experiences that require more human interaction than ever.

While the term “strategy” encompasses the mechanical aspects of content such as planning, brainstorming and producing, it doesn’t fully pay tribute to the much more high-level aspects of the discipline. Imagining the unique and individual make-up of users and empathizing with them to ensure an enjoyable and beneficial experience with a product is a task that is bound to become more complex and involved as new virtual experiences integrate into our daily lives.

Quickly replacing one word in a job title doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But when you think about how different “strategy” and “design” are in terms of how companies view the implications of their products, one word can have a lot of power.

Similar to Spike Jonze’s revelation in creating movie “Her”, Meta’s switch to content design is a recognition that technology is not just about how developed and intricate something is, but more so the power it has to either help or hurt the person experiencing it.

Among Meta are Slack, Netflix, Shopify, and a multitude of others taking the step to mainstream content design as a way of maintaining an awareness of how digital products impact the user.

It’s likely that content strategy is a dying term, so a general tip for these types of job-seekers is to rethink themselves as content designers, creating experiences through the design of words, visual content, user flows, and more.


Created by

Kelsey O'Connor

Former hokie interested in writing, design, and technology.







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