Steve Sampson, journalist and media expert probes the reality behind Facebook and their multi-billion video views.

There are lies, damn lies – then Facebook video viewing statistics. The social network – making the world more open and connected – has been anything but open on its own market reporting.


SPROUT OF ORDER: Even a veg video, we’re told, gets millions of views

For two years they admit they have hyped the video viewing numbers. Maybe by as high as 80 per cent according to one advertiser. You know the thing – those off-the-scale BuzzFeed food porn videos. A skyscraper of ice cream smothered in chocolate with a hamburger and fries stuffed in the middle. And supposedly 100M views. Even Brussel Sprout recipes get millions if views – supposedly.

Now it smells like something’s burning. And it should be Mark Zuckerberg’s conscience. According to the BBC: “The error affected a Facebook metric called ‘average duration of video viewed’, which was supposed to tell publishers for how long, on average, people had watched a video.

“However, the metric did not include viewers who had watched for less than three seconds in the count. Discounting the shorter views – including people who had ignored a video in their news feed – inflated the average viewing times for each video.”


OFF THE MARK: Zuckerberg’s Facebook should switch to Attention Minutes

In any other “media” business, heads would have rolled and millions been paid back to agencies and brands. The Wall Street Journal quoted ad-buying firm Publicis as saying that Facebook’s misreporting was “unacceptable”. I’ll say. These are the people who want to put YouTube to the sword. I mean, if you can’t trust Zuck, who on earth can you trust?

On average only 33 per cent of Facebook videos get watched right through. Most of them mute? Who the hell knows?. Facebook said 10 days ago that 50 per cent are watched with sound on. C4 assumes every one of their videos is mute and caption them like it is Ceefax.

Fact is Facebook is too powerful a medium to go up against. A third of the world and revenues of over $20B. And they think Murdoch is dangerous?

The only measure that should rate is “Attention Minutes”. If you got 5M views, how long was it viewed for, was it viewed right the way through. You tell a brand they can pay you £100K for a million minutes and you’ve got a whole new business. A believable business.

Then you can run your promos “old school” with offers and discounts. Do you ever see “buy now” tabs on BuzzFeed videos? Of course not, no-one stays to the end. Not even when you’re livestreaming your staff exploding a melon.

Unilad and LadBible are now apparently the world’s two biggest creators of video audiences, serving billions of views monthly. Social is where the brand audiences now live. But does that translate into real money, real ratecards against traditional media? TV is dead – but at least its measuring sticks are believable.

Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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