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The End of YouTube Annotations

Lewis McGregor

YouTube will no longer support annotations in new videos, so what’s next in video promotion?

Cover photo via Shutterstock.

YouTube has completely changed how videographers share their work. Rewind twelve years, and websites that featured a showreel video were usually slow to load, unreliable, and had poor video resolution. Fast forward to the present, and you can upload 4k media and share it with virtually anybody in the world.

YouTube, as a platform, offers several in-video tools such as captions and annotations. Annotations are the small colorful shapes that can appear throughout a video. They can direct you to other videos, present subscription options, or present a snippet of text.

Annotations are great for business and showcase videos because you can essentially add information after you have uploaded the video. One of the unfortunate aspects of YouTube, unlike Vimeo, is that you cannot amend a video after you’ve uploaded it (high-ranking channels may have some leeway with this). Annotations have been a good workaround for this problem. However, now it’s time to get rid of them.

The End of Annotations

While annotations have been incredibly helpful, they’ve out-stayed their welcome. The primary reason is that more than half of all views on YouTube are on mobile devices, and annotations only appear in desktop or laptop browsers. What good is a clickable link when only half of your viewership can see it? As such, new annotations will be discontinued tomorrow.

What’s the alternative? Interactive cards.

If your videography business depends on YouTube to showcase your work, and you have annotations that direct your audience to a website, now is the time to change. While annotations just burst onto the screen and can appear somewhat like graphics from a powerpoint presentation, cards gracefully animate in from the top right corner, and after a short period, animate out.

Take a look at the following example. Which do you find more professional?


The End of YouTube Annotations — Annotations


The End of YouTube Annotations — Card

First impressions are everything in an industry dominated by visuals. I can only imagine that, in a few years time, annotations will be akin to using Comic Sans on a business card.

What Exactly Are YouTube Cards?

Cards are pre-formatted notifications that appear on desktop and mobile which you can set up to promote your brand and other videos on your channel. You can choose from a variety of card types, like merchandise, fundraising, video and more. Once they’re set up, a small rectangular box, or teaser, will appear in the top right corner of the video to give your fans a preview of the message. If viewers tap or click the teaser, the card associated with the video appears along the right side of your video (or below the player on mobile in portrait mode).

That’s the beauty of these new actionable cards. They’re great when you work them into actionable moments in the video. In addition, unlike annotations, if you miss the card, you don’t have the scroll back through the video to find when annotation. Just hover your mouse over the video, look for the information (I) card to appear, click it, and all cards featured in the video will appear.

End Screen Cards

Since annotations can link you to another video on YouTube, they have become a popular way for creators and businesses to advertise additional videos.

The End of YouTube Annotations — End Screen

The problem is that if you have had too many annotations in your video, the viewer may have turned them off. While it only takes three clicks to turn the annotations back on and click through, in the world of audience retention, one click may be one too many. It’s also going to be incredibly annoying for mobile viewers to see a clip of another video but be unable to click it.

This, again, is where the beauty of cards comes in. In YouTube itself, you can set an end screen card that replaces the need for clips of existing videos. YouTube will insert a snippet of another video at the end of your existing one, along with the click-through link. You’ll need to remember to incorporate extra footage so the video card does not play over your content.

When you do go to add an annotation, you’ll see this message.

The End of YouTube Annotations — Error Message

That’s YouTube’s way of telling you to move onward and upward.

Do you have tips for maximizing audience retention on YouTube? Let us know in the comments.

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