Warning: Harper's Magazine has no content

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I was surprised when the mail brought me my October issue of Harper's, where on page 43 was Harper's full-page ad, defining the word, "content," in what seemed to me to be an unusual and counterproductive way.

The ad says:

WARNING! Harper's Magazine is 100% Content Free! Everybody gives you "content." But you'll never find that in Harper's Magazine. Instead, you'll get literature. Investigative reporting. Criticism. Photojournalism. Provocative adventures. Daring commentary. And truth-telling as only Harper's Magazine can tell it. Subscribe today and join the thoughtful, skeptical, witty people just like you who pay for culture, not content.

After telling readers how to subscribe, the ad then says:

HARPER'S  Proudly "content free" for more than 150 years!

All these years I've been using and understanding "content" to mean substance, the matter being dealt with, information and details about topics that matter. You know, like Language Log. And I've been reading Harper's because I thought it contained the very things it now denies. But being a thoughtful, skeptical, and sometimes witty person, maybe I'll need to rethink my subscription. Or buy a better dictionary. Or something.

What will ad-writers think of next?

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