I never watched LonelyGirl15, but I was aware that it was considered a phenomenon. Several years ago. Apparently the creators have spent those years raising a cool $5 mil:

People who invest in digital media and Internet video content have one belief: that creatives are gonna find a way to produce really compelling content that attracts big audiences much more cheaply than the studios. When you’ve attracted a big audience, advertising dollars will follow.

CinemaTech: $5 Million to Lonelygirl15 creators: What it means

I’m sure that on a dollar to viewer average, web creators can out-compete the studios productionwise. I’ve still yet to see an advertising model that converts those eyeballs back into dollars for web creators that beats what the TV networks can do. Let’s face it, their marketing and ad-selling arms are just as important as the production arms. Their business model is mature; the web’s isn’t.

Which is why it’s more of a lottery than a business model. Only so many web producers can have phenomenons at the level of LonelyGirl15. The good news is, at least for now, the rest of us still aren’t doing it for the money.

We do it for the love of the filmmaking game.

UPDATE: Advertising seems to be where the web video money is. I just got this e-mail from Brightcove:

The Pay Media functionality allows publishers to rent or sell their content directly to consumers. Since its beta release in January 2007, less than 1% of our customers have tried the feature and an even smaller percentage of our customers use it routinely. Given the minimal adoption of Pay Media and the feedback we have received from the market, we are going to discontinue this beta functionality.

As a result, you will no longer be able to sell or rent downloadable Windows media video files directly to consumers via your Brightcove players as of July 31, 2008.

This is a shame since the ability to also sell your media as well as stream it was one of the things I liked about Brightcove. But if nobody is using it, nobody is using it.

I wonder if there are any download-to-own iTunes alternatives that work as smoothly for movies as Amazon MP3 store works for music. At least DVDs are still making indie filmmakers money.