For those of us who have been waiting impatiently for YouTube to effectively monetize its traffic, it came as a bit of a surprise that the the most recent effort to cash in on millions of video views is, surprise, to sell MP3s and videogames. The official Google Blog announced this yesterday (with a teasingly apropos title, by the way, “I clicked to buy and I liked it”).
It works like this: For content provided by EMI, Electronic Arts, and others, these partners will be able to add “buy this” links for sites like iTunes and Amazon. Easy enough.
Where this really gets cool is if the music labels use Google’s automatic Content ID system to identify and monetize when someone uploads a video with a label’s music as a soundtrack.
Google/YouTube’s goal is to train content providers to think, “user-generated content=source of revenue” instead of “user-generated content=evil pirates who should be cast down to infernal realms.” This is the right idea. But, sadly, it’s not something content partners are excited about, precisely because rethinking UGC is tough for the media companies, whether on the music side or the video side. The anti-piracy vigil is strong, rightly so, but it’s also unreasonable from time to time.
The next step for automated Content ID is in video: once media partners allow Google to identify user-posted versions of its video content, they will hopefully see the wisdom in letting Google place some ads adjacent to or on top of the videos, sharing the revenue with the content provider. That’s when YouTube will really make money off these millions of viewers.