I came across this great AdAge post from Jim Louderback (CEO of Revision3) on the current state of the online video industry and the false god of viral video. It has a couple of really great points, but the entire thing is worth reading.
I think these are the two most important paragraphs (I’ve added the headings):
Viral is not habitual
Media is all about building habits. Successful producers bind an audience to their creation, building an insatiable hunger for the next installment, next episode, next post. But when you focus on viral success, you throw that focus on repeatability out the window. By its nature, viral videos are designed to surprise, titillate and entertain. They are, by nature, unique; the 27th keyboard cat or the 12th dancing baby is just plain boring. But once video producers taste the heady success of a viral hit, they keep trying to re-create lightning in a bottle. But let’s face it — we all know “David Goes to the Proctologist” isn’t going to be nearly as successful as his trip to the dentist.
Viral doesn’t necessarily drive ad revenue
Sure, everyone loves to trumpet a single video with millions of views. But because viral videos are by their nature unpredictable, they can burn through an allocation of premium inventory rather rapidly. At most sites, there are only so many high-CPM advertisements ready to run at any given time. When they’re done, bottom-dwelling ad networks lurch into the void, spewing their cheapo ads for teeth whitening, belly flattening and nicotine-busting dreck.