According to several YouTube creators, the site is no longer allowing them to add external links in the cards at the end of their videos, unless they enable their channel for monetization through YouTube’s Partner Program. While channels don’t have to actually enable monetization on individual videos, the channel must join the program for external link cards to work.
The sudden change left some creators confused about why they suddenly couldn’t link to their Patreon accounts.
Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios, who was one of several YouTubers to spot the change, told me:
It’s also not clear yet whether or not just have to have ads enabled on your channel, or if a video will lose its links should it be demonetized, either through a copyright claim or YouTube deeming it “ad-unfriendly.”
YouTube has since released a statement to explain the change:
In order to use externally-linking end cards in videos, creators are being asked to join the YouTube Partner program, so that we can evaluate the validity of the channel, as well as determine whether the channel is following our community guidelines and advertiser policies. This update is meant to curb abuse and does not affect current YouTube partners or existing end cards. Additionally channels do not have to actually monetize any videos as part of this requirement.
The change does add an extra step for YouTubers hoping to use external links to their own websites and crowdfunding pages, especially if they have no interest in joining YouTube’s Partner Program otherwise. YouTube also removed ads from videos with less than 10,000 channel views earlier this year, meaning smaller YouTubers may have a harder time drawing followers to their Patreons.
Still, the change appears to have been made to curb abusive use of external links. By limiting the external links to partners, YouTube can make sure the creators aren’t violating its terms of service and community guidelines.
While content creators who aren’t part of the partner program can still put links in their description boxes, some have told me that very few of their viewers use those links. Endcards are much more convenient as they put the link in the same box the viewer is already looking at, in an eye-catching bubble. If you’re a creator, you can sign up for YouTube’s Partner Program here to add external link cards to your future videos.
This post previously suggested individual YouTube videos had to be monetized to use external links in end cards. We regret the error, and have updated the text to reflect clarification from YouTube.