Facebook admits its video views numbers are complete fabrication

Image: AP

Facebook is the most popular social network in the world with over 1.5 billion users, a number that continues to grow rapidly. In recent years the social network has expanded not only its reach, but the type of content it’s looking to popularize, by bringing native videos to users’ feed. Unfortunately, its numbers on views, and time spent viewing said videos were completely wrong, a fact that Facebook admitted today.

For years Facebook has been trying to poach popular content, and indirectly views and users, from other services like YouTube. Content creators have been all but forced to publish their videos on the social network or risk having them freebooted, while the company has sold advertising against these videos. And how do you sell ads or ad space? By touting the total views and watch time of the content on your website.

Ever since the launch of Facebook video, the company has reported fairly impressive viewing numbers and other metrics, ones that seemed to show the social network was hot on the heels of YouTube and even surpassing Google’s platform in some places. However, creators have long suspected and argued that Facebook’s metrics are completely skewed and misrepresent reality, as the company not only autoplays videos in people’s feeds, but also counts views and time spent viewing on content that users just scroll past.

Today the company admitted this itself, though it claims that doesn’t impact what it bills advertisers at all. An ad agency said Facebook had informed it that the average time users spent watching its videos were likely overestimated by 60 to 80 percent.

Facebook explains:

We had previously *defined* the Average Duration of Video Viewed as "total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who have played the video." But we erroneously had *calculated* the Average Duration of Video Viewed as "the total time spent watching a video divided by *only* the number of people who have viewed a video for three or more seconds."

As a result the company will be introducing two new metrics that supposedly fix the problem:

Video Average Watch Time: the total watch time for your video, divided by the total number of video plays. This includes plays that start automatically and on click. This will replace the Average Duration of Video Viewed metric.

Video Percentage Watched: reflects the percentage of your video somebody watches per session, averaged across all sessions of your video where the video auto-played or was clicked to play. This will replace the Average % Video Viewed metric.

Given that so much of the social’s network plans are based around videos and original content this type of “mistake” is hard to accept, especially for advertisers and creators. Unfortunately, the reality is that given Facebook’s reach there’s little that either of the two groups can do.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Via: Engadget

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