You know how Facebook has been telling brand publishers and advertisers that they need to be not just doubling-down on video but go almost all-in on that format? Well that conversation has taken on a different pale with the news that it’s been miscounting – over-counting, to be accurate – views on video for about two years. The issue seems to be that it was only counting views that lasted over three seconds, so the floor for the average has started there, which has the effect of throwing off the average that’s reported.
This might seem like a small issue. What’s the difference between one second and three seconds, after all? For publishers, especially advertisers or those who have paid to boost the videos they’re posting, it’s a world of difference. One second of viewing means someone glanced at it while they were scrolling through the News Feed, while three seconds means they lingered for at least some of the message. It’s a difference of intent.
The problem, of course, is that Facebook has been reporting these numbers for two years now and it’s those numbers that are being used by media companies to make decisions involving advertising spend, staffing, resource allocation and more. So these inaccurate numbers are, at least in part, what’s been behind the shift at companies to more video production and distribution. Considering the extent to which many media companies have been relying on Facebook for their future well being, they’ve been eager to give the network what it say it wants because to do otherwise means they’re openly betting against what might be their best hope.
And that’s troubling. This is a great example of how relying on other people’s metrics means you’re putting your future in those hands and not betting on your own future. This isn’t confined to Facebook. The same can be said about Twitter or Google or anything else that relies on an algorithm or other network effect. For now, though, publishers have to figure out how to adjust their operations based on the latest vision of reality that’s being presented to them.