At the most serious end of the scale is Current.tv (http://current.com), the citizen journalist site set up partly by former US Vice President Al Gore. You upload your news-related video, which the site calls a Pod, and it is then watched and considered by the site staff. Videos which pass muster make it to the website, and then the Current TV community can vote it onto the Top Ranked list and even onto the broadcast channel. Unlike most video sharing sites, Current.tv has been picked up by satellite and cable TV. You can find it on Sky 193 and Virgin Media 155. So by submitting a video to Current TV you could end up on ‘real' TV - and get paid, too. Making viral ads for Current TV partners can be particularly lucrative, with at least $2,500 for videos chosen, and more if the ad is used outside of Current TV itself.
Whatever service you use you still need to be posting content which is popular enough to make money from advertising. But striking the right chord for a viral video explosion is still very much a black art. After all, who would have expected an androgynous youth under a sheet crying about Britney Spears would have tens of millions of viewers? Nonetheless, many of us are now painfully aware just how much Chris Cocker really wants us to LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!
Most sites offer tools to track the popularity of your videos, so you can apply a little trial and error here. You can also watch what is tickling people's fancy by looking at the Viral Video Chart (http://www.viralvideochart.com). This tracks statistics from the most popular sites to tell you what has been the most viewed over the last week, last 30 days, and last year, but unfortunately not for longer periods. You can also narrow your search to a selection of categories.
Here, YouTube could also come in handy. You can browse the most watched videos in all of YouTube's categories, again seeing what is popular today, in the last week, month, or for YouTube's entire history. With such a large proportion of the online viewing audience, what's popular on YouTube is pretty representative of what will be popular everywhere else.
YouTube's Insight system offers a particularly high level of detail on individual videos you have posted, too. As well as being able to plot which countries people are watching your video from, and their ages, you can track precisely which external site links are providing the most viewers. Most unique of all is the Hot Spots section, which shows where people carried on watching or stopped during the video, so you can see which portions are ‘sticky' and which ones turn your audience off, compared to other videos of similar length.
So although there is no set of rules as to what videos will succeed on the web, there are tools available to help you find out some useful pointers in the right direction. Ally those with the increasing ability to receive a financial return from your efforts - and the increasing willingness of advertisers to accept this as a viable method for reaching an audience - and you could well be able to make your video-making hobby into something a little more serious.