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Facebook Inflated its Video Views for Two Years

Every online advertiser today heavily relies on advertising on Facebook and each of the metrics’ information it provides them. Few weeks ago, Facebook revealed that the information it has provided for the past two years on the average time users spend watching videos was artificially inflated and that it is introducing a new metric to fix this issue.

Facebook was ideally supposed to divide the total time spent watching videos by the total number of people who watched the video; instead, it calculated the total time spent by people watching videos divided by the total number of views generated. Also, since Facebook calculates these views only if they are at or over 3 seconds, the impressions the video received from users were not included in the metrics. According to Facebook, its metric was off by 60 to 80 percent.

Facebook released the following statement – “We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics. This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.”

For a platform that has made video the topmost priority, this statement sure got advertisers who have invested lot of money and time on advertising based on such metrics angry. Although the news has ticked advertisers and publishers off, the impact wasn’t as huge as one may predict. Some agencies such as GroupM and Horizon Media do not use average time spent to buy video on Facebook and instead use other performance metrics (which aren’t affected by Facebook’s error), and thus the news did not affect the overall advertising budget and deliveries for these companies.

The news is obviously a huge embarrassment for Facebook; the data provided earlier has not only gotten marketers to misjudge their campaign performance on the platform, but also affected various decisions such as which platform to invest what and how much. Publishers and media companies are affected as well, as the data provided previously has been taken for granted to decide on the content for posts.

Facebook later apologized for the error. “While this is only one of the many metrics marketers look at, we take any mistake seriously. As soon as we discovered the discrepancy, we fixed it,” said David Fischer, vice president of Business and Marketing Partnerships. “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.”

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