YouTube is getting a batch of hot new features, including a "merch store" for music partners; a new sign-up process for indie labels; the option for users to integrate their YouTube and Google+ accounts; and a new "related videos" format.
The Merch Store
According to a recent YouTube announcement, YouTube partners will be able to open a "Merch Store" that sells their artists' merchandise, concert tickets, digital downloads, and "unique experiences like meetups." For this project, YouTube has partnered with Topspin, Songkick, iTunes, and Amazon.
While it will take a few weeks for the feature to go global, here's a preview of what the store will look like:
The New Indie Label Sign-Up
In addition to expanding their options for existing partners, YouTube is making it easier for indie labels (including those created by independent artists to promote their own work) to get started as a partner. The new, streamlined sign-up form can be found here.
While YouTube has had some limited integration with Google+ Hangouts, users can now connect their YouTube and Plus accounts directly. According to Googler Nirav Mehta, you can dive right into your YouTube sharing settings to enable the connection.
Once enabled, users will see the videos shared by those they subscribe to on Google+ on their YouTube homepage. However, Mehta notes that, "After you connect, it'll take a little while for videos to show up."
Further integration based on the connected profiles may be added in the future.
New Related Videos Layout
As noted by The Next Web, Google seems to be testing a new "related videos" look to guide users to additional content once video playback on YouTube is complete. The updated look shows the user 12 different videos, including both content from the channel that uploaded the previously watched video and other similar content throughout YouTube. They are presented in a format reminiscent of a film strip.
Google is also testing a version that shows four videos along the top in the same film-strip layout but uses the bottom section of the frame for advertisements. Some speculate that the introduction of this feature may be a sign that the Cosmic Panda layout will soon be released to the masses.
YouTube's getting a lot of love with all these features, but that's hardly unexpected. After all, YouTube is one of the world's most popular web properties, with 800 million unique monthly visitors and over 100 billion monthly page views.