Facebook: We Messed Up Video Metric for 2 Years

Metric overestimated average viewer time by 60% to 80%
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2016 10:55 AM CDT
For 2 Years, Facebook Messed Up a Video Metric
Embarrassing.   (Pixabay)

Anyone poking around on Facebook's "Advertiser Help Center" a few weeks ago may have stumbled across a post that's now getting a lot more publicity: Facebook has been overestimating average viewing time for videos on the site, likely between 60% to 80% and for two years, the Wall Street Journal reports by way of a memo ad-buying agency Publicis Media sent to clients. Facebook has since released a statement: "We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics," though it adds the "discrepancy" has been remedied and didn't affect billing. Facebook has been at the forefront of pushing video, and these boosted metrics may have influenced marketers' buying decisions, leading them to choose Facebook over competitors like YouTube (owned by Google) or even TV networks.

What caused the error: Facebook only counted views that were more than three seconds, upping the average viewing time. Facebook says it's now renamed the metric to "make it clearer what we measure"—changing "Average Duration of Video Viewed" to "Average Watch Time"—but Publicis isn't buying it. "Essentially, they're coming up with new names for what they were meant to measure in the first place," the memo reads. But while Business Insider acknowledges the news is bad, it also says it "isn't as bad as it looks," noting average video viewing time is just one of many metrics provided and advertisers aren't charged for videos viewed for less than three seconds. (Read more Facebook stories.)

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