Facebook wants longer videos, but takes away key view metric

Facebook has removed a benchmark metric that allows publishers to see how many video views lasted for 30 seconds or longer. In its place, Facebook has propped up a standard that measures number of views after 10 seconds of video playtime.

Available within Facebook’s Insights dashboard for page owners, the 30-second view metric was one of several benchmarks that allowed publishers to measure the performance of their Facebook videos. Other metrics on this dashboard include total video views (which Facebook measures at three seconds), unique viewers, average watch time per video and total minutes viewed. This is where the new 10-second metric is now also available. Facebook announced that it would be introducing 10-second views on its Insights dashboard last year, but for some publishers the changes went into effect last weekend, said multiple publishing sources.

Some publishers aren’t pleased with the development, arguing that Facebook has removed a key metric that allows them to demonstrate actual engagement of their content. It comes at a confusing time, they add, because Facebook is now prioritizing longer watch time and higher-quality videos.

“Our whole video strategy on Facebook is based on high engagement,” said Joshi Herrmann, editor-in-chief of Tab Media, a U.S. and UK-based publisher that averages 60 million views per month across dozens of Facebook pages. “We don’t aim to do gazillions of three-second views, mainly because we can’t see value in them. If people are watching you for less than 30 seconds, can you honestly say they are paying attention to your content — and the ads on that video — at all?”

Tab Media said more than half of its Facebook viewers watch for at least 30 seconds. The Tab, the company’s publication covering campus content, averaged 50.3 percent 30-second views in January; Babe, a publication covering content for young women, averaged 54.1 percent 30-second views last month.

Facebook’s constant tweaking of its platform is also a source of frustration for publishers. “Their analytics have always been hit or miss,” said an exec at a major news publisher. “They’re changing stuff all the time, because they’ll see a problem and try to correct it. Frankly, that’s why I don’t put too much stock in their metrics.”

The 10-second view isn’t a completely new metric for Facebook, which allows advertisers to pay for video campaigns based on three-second views, 10-second views and completed views.

“This is a signal to the industry at large,” said David Grant, president of PopSugar Studios, which in the past has said it gets 35 to 50 percent of Facebook viewers to stick around for at least 30 seconds. “When they set a default metric, it’s a statement by them on what the important metrics are.”

While some publishers are unenthused by Facebook’s change, others don’t see it as concerning. Companies like PopSugar and Attn have built internal tools to go deeper on Facebook measurement using the Facebook API. Both said they have the ability to track viewership percentages across different lengths of time — and can offer that data to advertisers for sponsored campaigns.

Facebook also offers deeper data on viewership across the length of a video. One of its tools breaks a video down into 40 segments — for instance, a two-minute video would be broken into three-second segments — giving page owners more insight on performance. But even here, the data is available on a video by video basis, which makes it difficult for some publishers to aggregate and average that information at scale.

For aggregated data, publishers have metrics on average watch time and total minutes watched, which some say will be the keys to success on Facebook as the platform itself prioritizes longer videos.

“The primary focus for Facebook moving forward, and brands that are sponsoring videos on the platform, is total minutes consumed,” said Jarrett Moreno, co-founder of news publisher Attn, which does 400 million views per month on Facebook. “The total watch time is the metric that will drive success on the platform.”


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