YouTube adds 'click-to-buy' for music, video games

New program marks latest effort by Google unit to generate a steady YouTube revenue stream.

YouTube this week is moving to step up its efforts to generate revenue by adding e-commerce links that let users buy music and video games from the site.

The new "click to buy" links that the company unveiled Tuesday are first being used to embed iTunes and Amazon.com links on videos from companies like EMI Music, and to provide Amazon.com links for the new video game Spore from Electronic Arts Inc.

The new program marks the latest attempt to generate revenue from YouTube since Google Inc. acquired the online video firm in 2006. Past efforts to include advertisements in videos met strong resistance from YouTube users.

"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," YouTube said in a blog post.

"This is just the beginning of building a broad, viable e-commerce 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."

The retail links are gradually being added to YouTube's music library, but are now only available to users in the U.S., YouTube said. The long-term goal is to add retail links for additional content and to add access for international users, the company added.

As it struggles to find a way to monetize YouTube, Google is working to fend off a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed against it by Viacom Inc.

Marshall Kirkpatrick, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that this move comes almost a year to the day after Google announced that YouTube videos would be offered inside AdSense, something Kirkpatrick said should have generated a substantial profit for the company.

"Apparently it hasn't, or else we'd have all heard about it," he added. "Figuring out how to monetize YouTube is widely believed to be one of the biggest challenges Google faces. We're not excited about seeing e-commerce links strewn all over YouTube, but if there's one bit of good news here it's that music sales will happen through both iTunes and the DRM-free Amazon.com. That way you can pay 99 cents and get that song yourself."

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