I think Google
Google has tried all the usual tricks to convert video displays into cash cows, like small ad banners beside the video window or brief interstitial ads before showing the content you wanted. But that hasn't translated into big bucks, and keeping YouTube's data centers and high-traffic Internet connections running might cost more than the $100 million or so YouTube's current money-making strategies pull in this year. It's the same story if you look at Microsoft's
So here's Google's secret sauce. Music draws a lot of eyeballs onto YouTube. Six of the 10 most-watched videos of all time are straight music videos, including 104 million views of the very top pick, Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend." Now, you can use YouTube as your personal and almost limitless music player, but you're stuck in front of a computer if you do. So you want to be able to download the songs and transfer them to your iPod. Now Google makes that easy for you by placing unobtrusive but easily accessible links directly to the Amazon.com
YouTube marketing manager Jenny Nielsen confirmed that Google takes a cut of the sales that start with such a link, though she wouldn't tell me how much. It's OK, ma'am. It's the principle that counts. Making a little bit off every lazy user adds up to a lot over time.
Still not impressed? Keep in mind that this is just the first example of YouTube growing into a full-fledged e-business platform. Content creators like Walt Disney
Make it work, OK? Good luck, Google.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google and Disney, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Anders is not Tim Gunn from Project Runway, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express one night. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.