According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has been miscalculating post reach, full video views and time spent reading Instant Articles for over a year now. This comes just a few months after it made a similar admission regarding over counting views of video ads and in the middle of a heated conversation about the “fake news” it allows to make its way into people’s News Feed.
Facebook has pledged to not just fix the errors but communicate more transparently about metrics and measurement in the future as well as form a council of marketers and advertisers to provide some third-party validity to its numbers.
The article rightly points out that the quickest way out of this for Facebook is to submit to a true third-party audit not by a group of its own making but from a third-party organization that already trucks in this sort of thing. It mentions the Media Rating Council but there are others that would provide similar services. If it keeps going with its own boards and panels the problem only grows worse.
For publishers and marketers this is – or at least should be – just the latest issue with Facebook’s place in the content distribution ecosystem. Not only has it been putting its thumb on the News Feed scales for years now after promising it was going to be the best place to connect directly with fans but it’s been consistently changing the rules of the game on other fronts as well.
I could go off here on why Facebook (and Twitter and other social networks) are poor substitutions for direct distribution through email and RSS, but I’ve hammered that point home for years. That doesn’t make it any less true.
If Facebook wants to maintain the role it’s established for itself it needs to take more drastic action soon. Even outside of the direct threat to ad spending that questionable metrics presents, if publishers can’t count on the organic reach Facebook has promised then companies will spend less time producing content there. That may not mean much to Facebook at first – it’s currently emphasizing personal posts over those from brand Pages – but a serious defection will catch up to them eventually.