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Like the song on YouTube? Click to buy it

October 7, 2008 |  4:57 pm

YouTube's new click to buy featureEver watched a video on YouTube and wanted to buy the song? YouTube is counting on it.

The world's most popular video-sharing site is hoping to make money from its huge audience by installing buttons under YouTube videos so that the ability to buy the music and video games featured in the video clip is just one click away.

The "click to buy" buttons, which began appearing in the U.S. today, connect viewers to the product page on Amazon.com or Apple's iTunes. To start, YouTube, which will receive a commission for each sale, is selling songs from two major labels, EMI Music and Universal Music Group, and video games from Electronic Arts. Eventually it wants to expand to sales of other products such as movies, television shows and concert tickets. "This is the first step in a viable e-commerce platform," said Bakari Brock, business affairs counsel at YouTube.

It's another effort by the video-sharing site to figure out how to profit from its popularity. So far, YouTube has mainly focused on advertising as a source of income, including text ads that run along the bottom of videos as they play, contests sponsored by advertisers and home-page video ads. But it has begun to experiment with new ways to take advantage of the site, which attracts nearly 100 million people a month in the U.S.

Google bought YouTube two years ago for $1.65 billion. Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt has pledged to investors that YouTube will make money once it hits on the right formula. Last month he said Google was being patient. "We are where we should be," he said. Yet revenue this year is expected to be only about $200 million. YouTube declined to talk about the success of its advertising efforts or the revenue the site generates.

YouTube seems to be catching on to an old Web trend called "hotspotting." The classic example: You spot Jennifer Aniston wearing a sweater you must have, and you click on the sweater to buy it. A couple of years ago, LA Times Technology Editor Chris Gaither and former staffer Claire Hoffman wrote about a French clothier that decided to make hotspotting even hotter by letting potential online shoppers click on the clothes that actors were wearing -- just before they took them off and had sex on the small screen.

-- Jessica Guynn

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