"Gotcha!" is a one-minute vampire movie that has gotten more than 1,600 hits since its 23-year-old director posted it on revver.com at the beginning of the month.
The mini-flick is one of five that Ben Leavitt, who attended NYU's film school, has uploaded using Revver's system that attaches ads to videos and then splits the advertising revenue 50/50 with creators. Leavitt, who's made about $30 so far, said he was drawn to Revver because of the potential to earn some cash from his self-described "ridiculous work."
"For doing nothing, that's pretty good actually," he said. "I would've done it if there wasn't money involved, but the money is certainly appealing."
Hollywood-based Revver, whose site is still in its beta version, developed its system for sharing ad revenue to capitalize on the sizzling growth of online video sharing. A recent report by Internet traffic watcher Hitwise found the amount of visits to the top 10 online video sites increased 164 percent in the 3-month period ending May 20.
"The conclusion that you can draw from it is that it's the next evolution of social networking," said LeeAnn Prescott, senior research analyst at Hitwise. "This is a behavioral shift in terms of what people are doing online."
But few, if any, of the individuals sharing their do-it-yourself videos are making any money at it. Revver hopes to break into the increasingly crowded video-sharing battle by changing that.
Revver works by tracking advertising click-throughs as a video file is viewed on its site or shared across the Internet on Web pages, blogs, peer-to-peer sites and social networking sites, said Steven Starr, Revver's founder and CEO.
"There's a lot of video on the Internet that is shared for fun and for free," Starr said. "There never has been a way for the content owners to monetize their content in that environment. We're hoping that people will take advantage of placing content on the network with a small bit of advertising associated with it."
THE CROWDED VIDEO-SHARING SCENE:
San Mateo, Calif.-based YouTube remains the leader in the online video, accounting for 43 percent of the visits among the top 10 video sites, Prescott said. Rounding out the Top 10 were: MySpace Videos, Yahoo! Video Search, MSN Video Search, Google Video Search, AOL Video, iFilm, Grouper, Dailymotion.com and vSocial.com, according to Hitwise.
Increased penetration of broadband Internet access has made online video viewing and sharing a more common Internet behavior, Prescott said.
"What we're seeing now is probably fairly nascent in terms of what the Web will be five years from now if bandwidth increases," she said. "The problem now in making this greater and people getting more video content online is bandwidth, obviously."
So far, most of the videos are small- or no-budget productions and have an amateurish feel. But despite the absence of rich production value, there's a huge amount of interest in some of the clips -- and thus money to be made off ads.
For example, a 22-second YouTube video posted May 29 of a little white puppy named Dilly playing in the grass has been viewed more than 200,000 times.
Besides being the most popular of the online video sites in terms of hits, YouTube also ranks seconds in the average time a user spends on the site, 13 minutes and 20 seconds, Prescott said. Yahoo's video site is tops with the average visit lasting more than 15 minutes. YouTube also allows users to create their own profiles and comment on each others' postings either in text or in video, allowing the site to double as a social networking site.
Meanwhile, sites known primarily for social networking or other features are upgrading their video-sharing capabilities to entice more users. MySpace added a "videos" link on every profile page at the end of March, but its average session time was 4:41, Prescott said.
Yahoo Inc. earlier this month reprogrammed its online video service to allow homemade videos on its own site. The Yahoo site has features resembling YouTube, including the ability to rate videos and browse related clips.
So what about an upstart such as Revver? Leavitt, of Princeton, N.J., can be counted among its satisfied users. He said he found Revver's uploading tools "incredibly easy to use" and the site is the right fit for his humorous videos.
"It's kind of exciting," said Leavitt, who works for a music video production company. "I'm curious to see how it works so I'm going to continue to put stuff up there."