The Facebook Video View Controversy

08 Oct 2016
by Admin
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For the past year-and-a-half, we’ve heard the drumbeat: “Facebook Video is growing rapidly, as YouTube and others are being overrun by the social network.” The sheer speed of Facebook’s growth was stunning and took the marketing community by surprise. So, when David Fischer of Facebook confessed that they’d been over-reporting video views, marketers took a deep breath. Facebook shared in a blog post that it artificially inflated its metric for the average time users spent watching videos because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds. How big is this inflated metric? Turns out it’s huge.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Ad buying agency Publicis Media was told by Facebook that the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%.”

In a blog post, Facebook VP of marketing David Fischer said:

About a month ago, we found an error in the way we calculate one of the video metrics on our dashboard – average duration of video viewed. As soon as we discovered the discrepancy, we fixed it… This is about how seriously we take our partners’ commitment to our platform and how their investments with us wholly depend on the transparency with which we communicate. We know we can’t have true partnerships with our clients unless we are upfront and honest with them, including when we make mistakes like this one. Our clients’ trust and belief in our metrics is essential to us, and we have to earn that trust.

And then Fischer went on to make a rare, and surprisingly overarching, apology. “We sincerely apologize for the issues this has created for our clients. This error should not stand in the way of our ultimate goal, which is to do what’s in the best interest of our partners and their business growth. We can only be successful if we’re providing clients with the tools to drive their business forward, and we’ll continue to deliver on that promise.”

So, what exactly happened and why does it matter? Facebook says it doesn’t count a user as a “view” unless they pause and watch at least three seconds of a video. Let’s set aside for a moment the question of where a three-second impression of a 30-second ad should really count as an impression. (Martin Sorrell of WPP famously called the three-second “view” ludicrously low.) Facebook says that’s what they count, and we have accepted that. The mistake to which Facebook now admits was calculating the average time spent using the full total of video watch time, including people who didn’t watch three seconds.

For the past year-and-a-half, we’ve heard the drumbeat: “Facebook Video is growing rapidly, as YouTube and others are being overrun by the social network.” The sheer speed of Facebook’s growth was stunning and took the marketing community by surprise. So, when David Fischer of Facebook confessed that they’d been over-reporting video views, marketers took a deep breath. Facebook shared in a blog post that it artificially inflated its metric for the average time users spent watching videos, because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds. How big is this inflated metric? Turns out it’s huge.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Ad buying agency Publicis Media was told by Facebook that the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%.”

In a blog post Facebook VP of marketing David Fischer said:

About a month ago, we found an error in the way we calculate one of the video metrics on our dashboard – average duration of video viewed. As soon as we discovered the discrepancy, we fixed it… This is about how seriously we take our partners’ commitment to our platform and how their investments with us wholly depend on the transparency with which we communicate. We know we can’t have true partnerships with our clients unless we are upfront and honest with them, including when we make mistakes like this one. Our clients’ trust and belief in our metrics is essential to us, and we have to earn that trust.

And then Fischer went on to make a rare, and surprisingly overarching, apology. “We sincerely apologize for the issues this has created for our clients. This error should not stand in the way of our ultimate goal, which is to do what’s in the best interest of our partners and their business growth. We can only be successful if we’re providing clients with the tools to drive their business forward, and we’ll continue to deliver on that promise.”

So, what exactly happened and why does it matter? Facebook says it doesn’t count a user as a “view” unless they pause and watch at least three seconds of a video. Let’s set aside for a moment the question of where a three-second impression of a 30-second ad should really count as an impression. (Martin Sorrell of WPP famously called the three-second “view” ludicrously low.) Facebook says that’s what they count, and we have accepted that. The mistake to which Facebook now admits was calculating the average time spent using the full total of video watch time, including people who didn’t watch three seconds.

Here’s the WSJ math: if two million people saw a video for a total of 10 million seconds, that should be a five-second average view. But Facebook was dividing that total watch time only by the number of people who stayed for longer than three seconds. If that was one million people, the 10 million seconds would generate a misleading 10-second average view.

You can hear the pounding on desks up and down Madison Avenue, and as Facebook grows in importance, it’s pretty clear that there’s going to be an increasing call for accountability and transparency as well.

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