YouTube Annotations have been around for a long time, and allow YouTube channel managers the ability to create bubbles of copy and clickable hotspots, overlaid on a video, which could include links to other YouTube videos. Annotations are a great way to increase engagement on YouTube and serve up related video content to your audience.
Annotations also allow channel managers to include text for the title of a video, or take users down a path with different outcomes, creating a “choose your own adventure” story. Other creative uses of annotations include creating speech bubbles, or offering up choices to create an interactive video-based game.
A great example of interactive annotations is the Hot Wheels Motor Cup Challenge. In this video, the viewer selects a vehicle and tunes it by selecting parts before entering into the racing circuit.
The latest YouTube offering takes Annotations one step further by allowing in-video links to an “Associated Website”, which is basically the publisher’s website that has been verified by YouTube and linked to the YouTube account.
However, not all YouTube accounts are eligible; in order to set up the “Associated Website” the YouTube account must be enrolled in YouTube’s Partner Program.
To become a member of the Partner Program, publishers must allow advertising on their video watch pages, and successfully monetize at least one video.
Joining the Partner Program probably isn’t an issue for individuals and video producers simply looking to get their video content viewed, but becoming a YouTube Partner has some major disadvantages for brands. Specifically, because monetization is a requirement of the program, you must allow In-Display ads to serve adjacent to your videos. For branded YouTube Channels, this means competitors can target your videos and channel as a placement and serve directly competing ads against your video content.
While this new feature is a great way for smaller publishers to escalate viewers by driving them to their website, this feature is probably just not worth it for brands with direct competitors in the video space. The benefits of linking to a website within a video probably don’t outweigh the potential cost associated with having a competitive ad serving against a brand’s video content.