What the death of annotations means for video marketers

We’ve all been there. You’re ten seconds into binge-watching a ‘best of’ compilation of scenes from a guilty pleasure TV show on YouTube, when you’re suddenly barraged with a series of annotations that obscure the screen. After years of frustrated users clicking the ‘hide annotations’ button, YouTube has finally abolished the annotation in favour of more discrete alternatives — cards and end tiles.

By Thomas Roden, senior account executive

It has been a long time coming. Since YouTube first unveiled its new card feature in 2015, video marketers and platform users alike have been anxiously awaiting the moment that annotations were officially discontinued. YouTube ultimately stopped the use of video annotations on May 2, 2017, so what do video marketers need to know moving forward?

It’s time to review
Fortunately for long-time users of annotations as a means of delivering calls to action, YouTube has granted a soft farewell to the function. While no new annotations can be created, existing ones will remain and will continue to direct viewers as usual. 

However, marketers will no longer be able to edit these annotations and will only be able to remove them from videos. This means that now the change has taken place, video marketers are no longer able to edit obsolete messages and are stuck with the annotations, unless they remove them all together.

Although much of the purpose of annotations has been transferred over to cards, they’re not as interactive for PC viewers. Annotations gave the ability to direct viewers to specific areas of a video clip, now marketers must assess alternative ways of providing such value.

Video on the go
A big factor that influenced the launch of cards in 2015 was data that suggested mobile devices are now the platform of choice for many viewers. Annotations were unable to operate properly on mobile devices, so cards and end tiles were designed to fill the void. With cards now being the only option available, marketers should take this opportunity to reconsider how their videos work on handheld devices.

This goes beyond simply using cards or end tiles and includes the structure of the video itself. For example, videos that are too text-heavy are not particularly successful on mobile devices due to the reduced screen size. As such, marketers should plan content that predominately uses visual or audio elements to present a point, to ensure cross-platform compatibility.

The death of annotations may initially prove popular among compilation video enthusiasts, but video marketers will undoubtedly be mourning the loss of a valuable ally. It is important that marketers use this as an opportunity to grow and develop, rather than forget and move on. 


Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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