Many people begin careers in many places in the entertainment business out of a passion for storytelling, or music. They want to further a desire to touch others. Connect on a deep level. Create, dare I say it, Art.

There is a moment in any career in the entertainment business when you begin to refer to records or film as “units” or “product.” As in, “the Springsteen product hasn’t done well for us on a cash flow basis, since 1986.”

Your willingness to commodify the subject of the business corresponds to the level of respect you’re afforded by its decision-makers. The novel you’re adapting into a film may have been your passionate dream for years, but if you actually want something to come of it on the screen, you’re going to have to show how it puts “tushes in seats.” And if the player with the greenlight ability says get that shmuck out of here,” everyone knows what he means.

Despite all of the number and bottom line talk, almost anyone in “the business” would acknowledge that one of the reasons executives are hired, and fired, is because of their taste. Beyond an understanding of salable elements and connections to talent (otherwise known as writers, actors and directors) an individual’s likes and dislikes are all part of the package of valued skills an entertainment executive brings her job.

In Silicon Valley, entertainment is touchy, feely risk stuff. Photographs, music, animations, videos, poetry, and stories are otherwise known by that catch-all, meatloaf-like term “content.” Its brevity is convenient, but I suspect that one of the collateral benefits to those who coined its new use, is the way the word could be included as a line item in a Web business plan without raising too many eyebrows.

As the Web developed, traditional entertainment got lumped in with SEC filings, stock quotes, weather feeds and maps-all named content by the new Valley rules. The more the Web content is tied to functionality, the more comfortable Web business people are paying for it. Like the technology they are used to developing, it provides a clear value proposition.

In Silicon Valley, companies will aggregate and search content. These venture-backed start-ups will create players and media applications that allow you to view, parse, send, share, slice, chop and copy content, but do not want to create it themselves. What’s more they don’t really want to pay to own or license it either. Techsters think that entertainment should be freely available to demo their beautiful technology.

It’s not really surprising. If you took a cultural tour through Silicon Valley, you’d be hard pressed to find a thriving artistic life. This is a place where the highlights of movie-going include the opportunity to give a shout out to your technology product placement, or publicly play with your laser pointer during the trailers.

It makes sense that the modern directory, the aggregator or portal (depending upon whichever buzzword you fancy) was once the prize jewel of the Internet industry. It has the gleeful appeal of appearing to give something for nothing. “We don’t have to write anything, produce anything” these portal executives might think, “we just have to point to it.”

Web dollars went into buying and building little bits of functionality that, VCs bet, the average Internet user will employ over and over again. Like free email and instant messaging. These players have been positioning themselves (they believe, and their numerous investors fervently hope) to be the content infrastructure.

In many ways, it’s a wise and obvious play for now. To extend Steve Jobs’ honest observation about Microsoft, the technology industry is taste-challenged. For now, the Web has discovered something that’s working now, in the market of Web potential: “free content.” It has come upon us in the form of chat, personal home pages and now photo albums. All things community. “We just have the toolset,” the techsters say. We have the server farm. We grow the branches and then the masses will come and hang their fruit.

As Cisco is to the physical Internet tree, so shall we, the portals and communities, be to the informative and entertaining end game. Who needs tushes when you’ve got eyeballs and investors. And if Microsoft Word doesn’t know what a shmuck is, why should I?

Infrastructure. it’s all about infrastructure. One of these days, you’re going to have to put a car on that gleaming road, Ladies and Gentlemen of the information superhighway. And it’s going to have a cost.