YouTube takes first steps toward an entertainment shopping mall

For the first time, video downloads generated from Google's YouTube site are no longer 100% free. Rather surprisingly, though, users have greeted the new links to fee-based music and content largely with positive comments, if any.

Google-owned YouTube yesterday abandoned its traditional business model of free content provider, adding links to paid video and audio in such a slick manner that most users either didn't mind or didn't even notice.

In a blog post Tuesday, "The YouTube Team" mapped out YouTube's plans to ultimately evolve into sort of an online shopping mall for audio, video, and print entertainment.

"Today, we're taking our first steps to providing YouTube users with [instant] gratification, by adding "click-to-buy" links to the watch pages of thousands of YouTube partner videos. Click-to-buy links are non-obtrusive retail links, placed on the watch page beneath the video with the other community features. Just as YouTube users can share, favorite, comment on, and respond to videos quickly and easily, now users can click-to-buy products -- like songs, books, and movies -- related to the content they're watching on the site," acknowledged YouTube.

The bloggers disclosed that YouTube will start by embedding iTunes and Amazon.com links on videos from companies like EMI Music, and providing Amazon.com product links to the newly released video game Spore on videos from Electronic Arts.

"[But] this is just the beginning of building a broad, viable eCommerce platform for users and partners on YouTube. Our vision is to help partners across all industries -- from music, to film, to print, to TV -- offer useful and relevant products to a large, yet targeted audience, and generate additional revenue from their content on YouTube beyond the advertising we serve against their videos. And those partners who use our content identification and management system can also enable these links on user-generated content, by using Content ID to claim videos and choose to leave them up on the site," said The YouTube Team.

Judging from the YouTube home page alone, you might not notice much of a change, if at all. The first hint comes by way of the "What's New" sidebar, which includes the following:

"Like What You See? Then Click-to-Buy on YouTube. When you view a YouTube video with a great soundtrack, you often see comments from YouTube users asking about the name of the song and where they can download it. Read more in our Blog."

Of the untold number of users who have actually viewed YouTube's blog entry, only about 25 had commented when BetaNews looked at the site this evening.
"This is a really good idea," read one typical comment.

A few users, though, weren't at all pleased by the more commercial direction YouTube is now taking. "Maybe people will actually click on these 'ads,'" another person wrote in sarcasm.

"Now how about the people posting the videos getting a referral fee? As it looks here, companies get to make money on the consumer once again while the consumer does most of the work to make the videos. (Great for Google, who owns YouTube). Not so good for the wallets of the rest of us," said another, voicing the opinion that YouTube is now ripping off its long-time user base.

"At least with Amazon, I can create a page of books and get a cut of purchases made through my site. Let your creativity help everyone, not just the bottom line of the mega-corps."

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