Facebook Really Sorry It Spent 2 Years Overestimating How Long We Watch Videos

Image courtesy of Facebook

Video has been really important to Facebook in recent years, with the social media company pushing its live broadcasts and inserting videos in our feeds. The thing is, though, how long does the average user spend actually watching videos that pop up in our feeds, whether they’re an ad or just a clip of a friend’s kitten? Not as long as Facebook tells advertisers that we have.

Facebook recently admitted to advertisers that it has been inflating the amount of time that users spend actually watching its videos. It did that by simply tossing out views under three seconds: if a video started up and you just kept scrolling, that view didn’t count.

While that makes sense, the problem is that by dropping those people who glance at a video and keep scrolling, Facebook boosted the average length of time that viewers spent watching that video.

“The metric should have reflected the total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who played the video. But it didn’t,” the company’s vice president of business and marketing partnerships explained to advertisers in a Facebook post (not a video post, though.)

“We know we can’t have true partnerships with our clients unless we are upfront and honest with them, including when we make mistakes like this one,” VP David Fischer continued, noting that this is why Facebook does make third-party tools available to advertisers so they don’t have to depend on Facebook’s metrics.

The company told advertisers that the discrepancy didn’t affect the amounts they paid for any ads included in the miscalculated watch times, and that Facebook’s totals for number of times a given ad has been viewed are still accurate. However, this doesn’t really help keep advertisers’ confidence up in Facebook videos as a platform.

Facebook Apologizes for Video Metric Miscalculation [Wall Street Journal]
An Update on Facebook Video Metrics [Facebook]