Facebook Video: Squishy Metrics and Stripping Attribution

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

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Facebook video appears to be a big success story for the network. In addition to bringing in more than 1 billion views, it has been a boon for marketers. However, according to Vlogbrother Hank Green, Facebook is gaming the feed to prioritize its own product. What’s more, Facebook’s video empire could be built on theft and bad metrics.

Green writes:

If I embed a YouTube video or Vine on Facebook, only a tiny fraction of my audience will actually see it. But if I post the same video natively on Facebook, suddenly it’s in everyone’s feed everywhere! This data is pretty easy to come by for us, and Facebook is happy to admit the strategy.

His numbers bear that out when comparing an embedded and natively uploaded of the same video on the network. The native posts show higher views, higher clicks, higher reach, higher shares, and higher likes. However, the analysis also shows that users are less engaged with the actual video content — view times are shorter, and autoplay “views” pad Facebook’s numbers.

Green was able to track views as products of both clicks and autoplay, and autoplay views are substantially higher than views from clicks, often by a factor of 10 or more. The method that Facebook users for counting views warps their numbers substantially, as it includes users just scrolling past an autoplay video.

At that moment, 90% of people scrolling the page are still ‘watching’ this silent animated GIF. But by 30 seconds, when viewership actually could be claimed, only 20%  are watching. 90% of people are being counted, but only 20% of people are actually ‘viewing’ the video.

In addition to inflated metrics, Facebook video also contains a trove of stolen content. More than 75 percent of Facebook’s top video content infringes on copyright and Facebook’s reporting system largely misses the prime view window of videos, making reporting difficult and often pointless, according to Green.

Social sites as engines for stripping attribution is nothing new, and many sites are tailor made for re-uploading stolen content. The issue with Facebook permitting the practice, is that it’s an industry leader. Green notes that while YouTube had similar origins, it introduced the Content ID system to protect all rights holders, small and large. Facebook neither has nor appears to have any plans to implement such protections.

Until Facebook begins to protect the rights of creators it could be a hostile place to create original content. However, numbers generated by Green and others show that Facebook is driving a lot of views, for better or worse. And that’s the problem: Facebook is gaining massive ground and possible revenue at the expense of the creators it needs to remain competitive in the video market.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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