What Is Online Video For: Marketing or Content?

So Oprah joined Twitter. And that’s not blink-and-you-will-miss-it news. It began and it will keep going.

Her first tweet was a little off, screaming, “HI TWITTERS . THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.” Wrong as in “TWITTERS” versus “TWITTERERS” and ALL CAPS versus say something maybe a little less LOUD. And the bulk of her tweets were about promoting her show — as opposed to sharing new content about other aspects of her life or more unique explorations of the material.

But then she even moved further and began include Flip cam clips showing herself talking about her show — video that could technically be called “content.” But really, it felt more like marketing Oprah off-camera and marketing Oprah’s show.

Here’s the link on Facebook that shows Oprah talking about Earth Day while she’s holding her dog. And, of course, it’s Facebook, so the ads are few and far between.

So this isn’t really new content, it’s marketing. And it’s solid marketing that reaches Oprah’s fans in new environments, entices the curious and soon-to-be fans and the tweetsphere writ large. But the advertising money isn’t going to come against this content; it merely supports content that’s airing across national TV.

Then there’s another TV heavyweight, Josh Schwartz, (creator of “The O.C,” “Chuck,” and “Gossip Girl”) discussing his role as a creator and how he fits into the digital world. While he had dabbled with creating original online content with “Rockville CA,” he admitted it wasn’t really the kind of budget he was used to. Consider his cute quote via the NewTeeVee blog, “I think I lost money buying El Pollo Loco for the crew,” in reference to his catering budget for the music world-based Webisodic series.

I’m not suggesting that two of TV’s more formidable talents should quit their day jobs. But for these folks, online is a vehicle to either drive people to TV, as is the case with Oprah, or is a plaything to try ideas and monkey around but not truly invest, as was the case with Schwartz. And the people who pay their bills see it very much the same way: Online is a way to market current programming or placate talent in a pool where it doesn’t matter.

Which brings us to the one online video clip searing the Internet — yes, the Susan Boyle clip from the Simon Cowell hosted British game show, “Britain’s Got Talent.” We’ve all seen it by now — or at least approximately 100 million people had — as of April 19, according to Mashable.

And you know what? This unique piece of “content” that redefines just how viral something can be isn’t making money for the show’s owner, Britain’s ITV, nor for YouTube, the primary host for the bulk of those views.

You can make the argument that America now knows there’s a show called “Britain’s Got Talent.” But that does little for ITV’s bottom line.

It’s not making extra dough online, nor is YouTube because they can’t agree on what is the proper ad format. YouTube wants overlays; ITV wants pre-roll videos and teases to its site. For the moment, neither the twain shall meet.

What’s the point? While content created of the Web and for the Web will have its day, it may make sense to just, for the moment, accept it’s a marketing platform — demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that value — and build from there. It’s happening that way anyhow, so don’t fight it.

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