Publishers test new TikTok feature that adds links to organic videos

TikTok is testing a way for publishers to attach links to organic videos, according to three publishers.

The test seemingly comes at an opportune time, given the decline in social referral traffic from platforms like Facebook and X, and the challenge of getting users from popular platforms like Instagram and TikTok to publishers’ sites.

However, it remains to be seen how much traffic TikTok can actually drive for publishers. TikTok declined to comment on the feature or its ongoing test.

Wes Bonner, svp of marketing and audience development and head of social at BDG, said onstage at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Vail, Colorado, last month that he was hoping to convert just a “small portion” of BDG’s 25 million TikTok followers to onsite traffic by adding links to organic TikTok videos. The feature has not yet officially launched, he later told Digiday.

During a town hall session at the summit, during which publishers were granted anonymity under Chatham House rules, another publishing executive confirmed they were testing the same feature. When asked how it was performing so far, the exec said it was “decent” but it “remains to be seen” how well the feature can drive viewers of the publisher’s TikTok videos to its site.

The main goal, the exec added, would be to get the publisher’s TikTok audience to its site in order to “re-engage” those people as well as capture their emails.

But the chances of this feature making a big impact are slim.

“TikTok, [like a] lot of the platforms, [are] designed for people to stay on platform and so even just the incentive for somebody to want to leave TikTok — it’s pretty tough,” the publishing exec said during the town hall.

A Los Angeles Times spokesperson confirmed that the team that manages its TikTok account is also testing this feature. The spokesperson, as well as BDG’s Bonner, declined to share more details about the new TikTok feature.

Sarah Marshall, Condé Nast’s vp of audience strategy, said that while the company’s social teams have not tested the feature the other publishing execs in this story described, they have tested TikTok’s “link in bio” feature — such as adding a LikeShop landing page (similar to the popular Linktree link-in-bio tool) — to see how well it drives people to its sites. This is a separate feature from the links in organic videos, and Marshall said it hasn’t proven to be a strong driver of referral traffic from TikTok.

“Condé Nast brands have tried adding links to bring audiences from TikTok back to our sites, but our focus remains storytelling within TikTok itself. Our brands are highly visual and we want to engage our communities on TikTok rather than to try and get people to leave the platform,” Marshall said. Condé Nast is also a TikTok Pulse Premiere partner, so the publisher can monetize its TikTok audience with ads alongside its videos, she added.

Because Marshall sees TikTok as a walled garden, she said the platform serves primarily as a brand-awareness channel that can also make the publisher money.

“Realistically, the experience [prioritizes] storytelling on TikTok itself,” Marshall said.

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