Unless you're Google/YouTube, where video is a big, big deal, the answer seems to be: not yet. Disney claims it has made bupkes on iTunes since 2006, so all those downloads of Lost and's ? They're a complete rounding error from the Mouse's perspective.
There are a lot of people who hype things up on the Internet and to the degree they can wind up making money from doing so, I say more power to them. I wish I had more hype DNA, but sadly I am lacking in those genetics.
I've written before that I watch Mahalo Daily (hosted by Veronica Belmont) and Webb Alert (hosted by Morgan Webb) on pretty much a daily basis, or at least any day they produce content. Mahalo Daily covers a wide range of topics, and I don't find all of them riveting, but I enjoy most of them. Topics range from video games to the Stanford Linear Accelerator. I love particle accelerators, what can I say?
Webb Alert covers the tech topics du jour in the blog sphere. While I used to read a ton of RSS feeds about technology, these days I'm spending my time watching Jericho, so I find the 5 minute updates from Morgan Webb a quick and enjoyable way to catch up. Webb may be no Summer Glau, but she's definitely got some geek skills and I find her daily recaps amusing. Yesterday (3/12) she reported on the official launch of Hulu. Webb always gives shout outs to the blogs she likes - or at least blogs she likes that are on the Federated Media Publishing (advertising) network (which her site itself is a part of).
I'm going to come back to Miss Webb and Federated Media in a moment, but first...
Bill and I are trying to figure out if there's a way to make a buck or two by doing this website. It's a fun and enjoyable hobby, and we have built traffic considerably since our launch in September, on a marketing budget of $0.00. Ok, there was the time I talked Bill into blowing $900 on a business wire press release, but I won't make that mistake again. Otherwise, outside of our time (which we are not being compensated for outside of the enjoyment of it) our fully loaded costs for hosting and having a domain name are, drum roll please, about $8/mo.
Because of San Francisco based Quantcast, we get a lot of informational data about the way the blog world works. Not as much as we'd like to get because not everyone actually uses Quantcast. But for those who are "Quantified", you can get a lot of information. Our site is "quantified" and for better, or for worse you can see our traffic patterns freely. There's quite a bit of information in there. My experience based on server logs and a variety of free tracking services like Feedburner and Google Analytics is that Quantcast is very, very accurate at measuring traffic. I can't speak to the accuracy of the demographic information (I'm not informed enough to do so), but I can say the traffic measurement itself is pretty good.
I'm a fan of Om Malik, and one of the sites in the GigaOm empire is NewTeeVee.com. Malik has quantified his sites and so we can see what the traffic is like, and because of my own experience with combining Quantcast with a WordPress blog, I trust the numbers relatively speaking.
I look at NewTeeVee's numbers and I think many things. NewTeeVee gets way more monthly unique visitors than we do, but the level of engagement on our site (number of pages viewed per visit) is higher. So even though they have about 100,000 more unique visitors per month, we are beating them out on a page view basis.
GigaOm, like Webb Alert is part of the Federated Media advertising network and so yesterday when Morgan Webb was discussing the launch of Hulu, Webb referenced a story by Liz Gannes on NewTeeVee. What I wondered was this: would that reference do anything at all for NewTeeVee's traffic? Would there be any kind of a spike as a result. The answer is very clearly this: NO. The demise of Quarterlife on NBC generated more traffic for NewTeeVee.
While I think Federated Media is capable at selling ads for a premium CPM, the value proposition isn't clear to me. I'd hoped for the day when Bill and I could build enough traffic to the site where we'd be interesting to a network like Federated Media, but one of my primary interests there outside of revenue was being under the impression that being a part of that network would actually be helpful in terms of increasing our traffic. I'm no longer sure that's the case. I wrote Federated's John Battelle about that aspect because I am curious to know whether people at Federated think about things like "Can we use the network to grow traffic to other sites...on our network?" It doesn't appear to be happening, but that doesn't mean they aren't thinking about it. To Battelle's credit, he forwarded the info along to the person responsible for new accounts, but then it seems to have fallen into a black hole.
Though I may have more of a crush on Summer Glau, I crush on Morgan Webb at least a little (hey, it's not like she isn't a former Maxim girl, she is - though I only found that up when trying to scounge up a picture of her for this post that didn't involve her being in a bikini!) and spend at least 10-15 minutes a week watching her updates (like Mahalo Daily they just automatically wind up on my iPhone via synching with iTunes - so easy!). But what I'm thinking about is this: what's the value proposition and how do you make money on it? The updates are good, but if yesterday's NewTeeVee reference was any indication, it doesn't do anything in terms of generating traffic. So that strikes me as something where "there might be value in advertising via such a video vehicle, but the value isn't in terms of creating extra page views, so...what's it really worth and how much would I pay?"
My answer to all these questions seems to be this: I don't know. I'm not bashing on Webb or Federated Media, I just wish there were some place where it were easy to openly discuss this kind of thing. At least because of Quantcast, the discussion can be put out there. Hopefully some learning will come of it.
Regardless of the business models, I do recommend checking out Webb Alert and Mahalo Daily (and NewTeeVee, too). As for Quantcast, I noticed when I was watching Jericho via CBS.Com that it was using Quantcast video tracking, but I see no public reporting on those video numbers in the same way that Quantcast reports web traffic. I'll see if I can track some of those #s down because I'm sure it would tell us a lot about how CBS videos are being interacted with (average length of stream, demographics, etc).