We've wondered just how YouTube would be able to monetize its traffic and justify the sky-high valuations being tossed around for it, and it's now taking a page out of MySpace's book by selling advertisers the ability to create "brand channels" -- their own pages featuring a particular product or brand. The MySpace influence runs deep, as the first such brand channel (for Paris Hilton, natch) has a look that should be pretty familiar to anybody that's visited MySpace. The channel pages can also have their own "sponsors" -- for instance, the Paris Hilton page is sponsored by a Fox TV show -- and YouTube will split the ad revenue with the brand's owners. YouTube is also selling "participatory video ads", dressing up what many advertisers have already been doing (uploading their own content to the site) with some paid placement on the front page. YouTube says these efforts, which have been well-received by advertisers, are just initial efforts, and there's more to come. But will advertisers really find long-term value in paying for a slightly enhanced version of what they can do for free? One aside: the remarkable similarity between the YouTube brand channel page and the layout of MySpace pages (which, admittedly, isn't hard to mimic), as well as the Fox sponsorship, combined with the persistent "Who's Buying YouTube?" talk, almost makes you wonder if there's something deeper than just a sponsorship afoot between YouTube and News Corp.
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