Facebook’s Inflated Views, The History, The Shared Blame
Last week, The Hollywood Reporter revealed a proposed settlement which would see Facebook pay $40 million to resolve claims from several ad agencies that the social media giant overstated the average time its users spent watching video.
The THR story kicked off a sea of thoughtful tweet storms from media execs and journalists alike. Folks like Gavin Purcell, who led video at Vox during the time, reminds us the Facebook video gold rush began with the launch of Facebook Live in April 2016. Purcell helps quantify what inflated views meant to publishers when the faucet shut off. Videos that scored 30, 40, 100 million views in 2016 began garnering 1/10 the amount of views in early 2017, according to Purcell. (Highly recommend reading the full Twitter thread below.)
God, this explains so much. I remember this well. Specifically, I started as Head of Video across Vox Media in late 2016 and had FB video growth as a major focus. Vox is very good about diversifying across platforms but at the time FB vid was big part of growth strategy. (1/?) https://t.co/PWyKqussSA— Gavin Purcell (@gavinpurcell) October 13, 2019
Although, don’t be so fast to blame Facebook alone, says Wall Street Journal’s CMO Today video reporter Sahil Patel, who reminds everyone that the industry was largely complicit in Facebook’s inflated metrics problem. As Sahil puts it, many “took that pill.”
FWIW, yes Facebook inflated metrics, but no one was transacting on watch time back then—in fact, no one wanted to talk about watch time. The 3-sec view was easy to game because of news feed auto play. So yes, Facebook deserves blame, but so does everyone else who took that pill.— Sahil Patel (@sizpatel) October 13, 2019
Regardless of who’s to blame for metrics problems of past, the industry clearly needs third-party measurement providers to bring confidence and uniformity to the entire social landscape. You can’t deny the audience attention available on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. However, media and advertisers need better metrics to transact against. A company like Tubular Labs is on the right track with new TV-like metrics for social video — deduplicated audience and average watch time metrics across social platforms — but we’ll need to see some solid adoption and strong use cases before the industry can take a collective step forward.