YouTube Kills External Linking Because TikTok Does It?

YouTube announced this weekend that they will be disabling external links in the video description and comments for YouTube Shorts videos. This is the subject of my latest video.

This change, set to take effect on August 31st, has left me concerned for small and mid-sized creators who rely on affiliate marketing links for a portion of their revenue. When I first started making videos affiliate links drove most of my channel’s income and still represent a sizable portion of my overall revenue.

Affiliate links pay the creator a commission for sales that are generated from a user clicking on the link. What I really like about affiliate marketing is that it disincentivizes false advertising, as any returns made on an affiliate generated sale are deducted from the commission paid to the creator.

That’s why I was very disappointed to see the official response from YouTube’s “Creator Liaison,” Rene Ritchie, who said in a Twitter post that this was “the same as Reels and TikTok” and creators on those platforms were doing just fine.

I’ve always believed that YouTube offers a unique platform that stands out from its competitors through generous (and transparent) revenue sharing on long form videos, great discovery features, and the ability to use external links for affiliate marketing and other purposes.

The introduction of this restriction feels like a step backward – especially as their spokesperson devalues his own brand by comparing it to platforms that are the absolute worst for creator monetization. Perhaps Rene’s experience as a content creator and the creators he associates with are not struggling the way most monetized creators do on the platform. Some of us would prefer not to do the type of payola that clogs up TikTok and Reels.

One of the arguments presented by YouTube for this change revolves around security concerns, specifically the risk of scams and hacks appearing in comment threads. But YouTube solved that problem years ago by holding comments with links for moderation if the creator enables that feature (I do). Rene also rejected the idea of allowing those in the YouTube partner program to continue linking as he thinks it would make them a target for phishing attacks. But large creators are already the targets of phishing attacks as Linus Tech Tips found out a few months ago.

What I think is happening here is that YouTube is trying to get their own affiliate program off the ground which does work with Shorts. This new feature embeds affiliate links in the video itself but is limited only to retailers that agree to work with YouTube who presumably takes a cut of the action.

While this program has potential, my experience with it so far has been underwhelming. The click-through rates and conversions from YouTube’s affiliate links are significantly lower than my personally generated affiliate links and very few retailers that sell the types of products I cover are participating in the YouTube program.

I hope that YouTube will reconsider this decision and continue to support creators of all sizes. I love YouTube because it’s not a payola cesspool like their competitors. If that’s the vision for Shorts, fine. But the people I know at YouTube want to do better than that. And after all, it’s the creators who drive the platform, and their voices should be heard.

Recent Short Gadget Picks

I still loathe YouTube Shorts but I am making a few of them on the Gadget Picks channel for smaller gadget finds I come across. Shorts on my Amazon channel do much better than YouTube but I may as well put them in both places! Here’s a few of my latest finds. Each title link will bring you to my Amazon page (affiliate link) where you can see pricing and availability.

USB-C Cable with Power Meter

This USB-C cable is not your ordinary cable; it features a built-in power meter. The cable supports up to 100 Watts and provides information about its mode, such as USB-C PD. A point to note: the meter’s display appears brighter on camera than in reality but still a quick way to monitor the power flow going into your device.

Bamboo Wireless Qi Charger

This USB-C powered bamboo wireless charger is a stylish and functional accessory designed for three devices: a phone, an Apple Watch, and ear pods that support wireless charging. It’s versatile, compatible with various brands, and offers a maximum charging capacity of 15 watts. The only issue I encountered is that the magnet for the watch is a bit too weak.

Bluetooth Number Pad

This Bluetooth number pad not only provides numerical keys but also includes nicely sized arrow keys. It’s a great addition for those who might find certain keys missing from their laptop keyboards. Compatible with both Windows and Mac, it also offers keys for screen brightness control, tab, delete, page up/down, and more.

Amaste Milk Frother

Elevate your coffee game with the Amaste Milk Frother. Designed for easy cleaning, the frother uses a magnet mechanism and boasts three modes: froth without temperature, warm froth, and hot milk. Using skim milk, I achieved a rich frothy output that was quite impressive.

Disclosure: These products came in free of charge through the Amazon Vine program. I had no contact with the manufacturer, no one reviewed or approved this video before uploading, and no other compensation was received.