Facebook Overestimated Key Video Metric for Two Years

Raise your hand if you are not the least surprised:

For the past two years Facebook only counted video views of more than three seconds when calculating its “Average Duration of Video Viewed” metric. Video views of under three seconds were not factored in, thereby inflating the average. Facebook’s new metric, “Average Watch Time,” will reflect video views of any duration. That will replace the earlier metric.

In its note to clients, Publicis said the change wasd an attempt to obfuscate Facebook’s earlier miscalculations.

“In an effort to distance themselves from the incorrect metrics, Facebook is deprecating [the old metrics] and introducing ‘new’ metrics in September. Essentially, they’re coming up with new names for what they were meant to measure in the first place,” the memo said.

Source: Facebook Overestimated Key Video Metric for Two Years | WSJ

+Commentary: [Emphasis Above Mine] Will address this ‘shocking’ revelation more fully later and what it says for the same company that allows freebooting, or basically any other dirty trick, to further insure its investors and the world at large that they are the world’s preeminent video source. While this is a damning revelation, it reinforces what any and all marketers know. They make these metrics up, often completely opaque as to how they are calculated, and proximate them to industry standards without having them regulated.

In the billion dollar advertising industry you’d think there would be agreed upon standards, and there were before the addition of online. Then came the social media space and its rapid rise and commodification. While this exposé on their huge miscalculation made these marketers think that they were reaching more people than they were has come to light, make no mistake, it was fully intentional.

From their perspective if they make it seem like their video ads are doing well, better, or great, then other avenues like YouTube. Basically their entire rollout of it has been designed to get more people paying them for this, while completely undercutting their competitors.

For the average small business, or even the microbusiness, this won’t have amounted to much. The tempest in a teapot comes to mind at first. Traditionally any ad spend you might invested in Facebook would have been null compared with these larger entities and agencies. However, by making their business service seem more lucrative, Facebook has then inflated how much they charge while also deprecating any money you have spent on it.

This isn’t good for them, and gives them a black eye, however will they then refund the monies spent, give credits, or otherwise remunerate those who did use it? That is the real question.

What it also does is further dilute whatever microbranding or micromarketing you have done that is video related. If your content is competing against a crowded marketplace of interuptive video ad placement, won’t the typical user grow weary and perhaps skip over yours as well? With this seeming bang-for-your-buck skewer Facebook has devalued all video across its platform.

The 3-Second Video View was highlighted during the freebooting discussion, because on a platform that auto-rolls video by default (and there are instances where you can’t turn that off – business pages when scrolling can’t stop this!) those 3 seconds can matter. When it makes it seem as if MORE people saw it then actually did. So to erase those from the calculation is to inflate rather heavily the interest your video receives.

The purpose of the metrics then, when looking at the analytics, is to winnow the chafe from the wheat. Paying particularly close attention to how long they were viewed. The point of the dashboards is to give you actionable intelligence that you can use to properly decide how and where to spend your money, and to understand how monies spent did.

If you can’t trust them with this most basic of information, to provide it to you in a fully transparent way, then what can you trust them with? Kudos to whoever discovered this. What it tells us is that when it comes to marketing dollars not to trust them. Small businesses have less of this to spend, but must do so wisely, which is why we have always counseled not to waste it on Facebook, no matter how much they swear it will work. If they are putting their finger on the scale rather heavily, and charging you what they will, then lying about the results, it means that they will do anything for their bottom line, and nothing for yours.

Much has been made previously, in all their iterations, about how they also conflate views, and other things, to get you to advertise with them. This latest revelation shouldn’t come as any surprise. What it does however is showcase just how far they would go to undercut YouTube (or other video content providers or ad spaces) to reach the top of the heap. This is particularly worrying as they become a defacto media/entertainment outlet without reasonable or standard industry oversight.

They are beholden to no one, and yet they are also bankrupting media companies all behind an illusion that they are simply a platform. It is always wise to remember that you are the product in social media, delivering your eyes to these marketers, and if Facebook is willing to lie to them, what are they willing to do to your newsfeed?