YouTube keeps pushing viewers to use channels, takes subscribe button everywhere

YouTube (s GOOG) really wants you to subscribe to more channels, and it’s now taking the ability to do so offsite: Publishers now have the ability to embed a subscribe button into their own websites, the video service announced Tuesday morning.

Here’s how YouTube’s developer docs put it:

“The YouTube Subscribe Button lets you add a one-click Subscribe button to any page. The button lets people subscribe to your YouTube channel without having to leave your site to either log in to YouTube or confirm their subscriptions.”

This may look like a small feature, but it’s part of a larger move by the service to emphasize channel subscriptions in order to make people stick around longer, and to reward publishers who put out high-quality serialized content. YouTube first pushed this with its site-wide redesign a good year ago, and has since taken the idea to mobile and other platforms as well.

There is some evidence that the emphasis on channels is working; YouTube says that interaction with channels and subscriptions are up. It’s hard to verify these claims, but there is some evidence that viewers are watching more: Last month, Google reached 168 million U.S. video viewers, according to comScore, with each viewer tuning in for a record 500 minutes per month.

That’s up around 15 minutes from last year. It’s still much less than the time people spend watching TV every month, but it’s a step in the right direction — and YouTube clearly thinks that getting you to subscribe to more of those channels will be the next step.