Facebook is trying to show publishers and creators that it can be a better video monetization partner. But Creator Studio, the tool it built to help publishers publish and analyze the performance of their videos, remains frustrating and unreliable, almost a year after Facebook rolled it out globally on its platform, according to multiple sources.
On July 3, Creator Studio simply stopped working, remaining down for most of the workday, according to publishers. On June 28, Creator Studio was down for several hours. Last week, Creator Studio’s search function went down, making it significantly more difficult to repost or syndicate content.
Those malfunctions are among the more extreme examples, sources say; and the July 3 outage coincided partly with a site-wide Facebook outage. But they top a long list of gripes publisher sources have, including videos scheduled for publication through Creator Studio not going out, even though Creator Studio listed them as going out, an inability to track the performance of older content and a quirky design that makes searching for videos cumbersome and unreliable.
Digiday spoke to sources at seven different publishers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they wanted to avoid damaging their relationship with Facebook. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“I would not even have this product out of beta, if I were them,” one source said. “It’s very buggy.”
Though most of these problems are minor in and of themselves, sources said, their cumulative effect has proven frustrating. A second source said they wound up abandoning the Creator Studio altogether because it was too unreliable.
But the publishers that are holding out may not have the option for much longer. In late spring, Facebook took the video library and insights features out of Publisher Tools, the internal analytics hub many publishers use to track the performance of their content inside Facebook, and ported it into Creator Studio.
Some publishers worry that, if Facebook moves more features out of Publishing Tools and into Creator Studio, it will be harder to find workarounds when Creator Studio malfunctions. At the moment, publishers can get around most Creator Studio issues simply by reverting to workflows they developed before Facebook launched Creator Studio. They also worry because, over the 11 months that Creator Studio has been globally available, bugs proliferate whenever Facebook updates the product. “Every time they add a new thing, it seems like there’s a new problem,” a third source said.
Facebook has been in the midst of a charm offensive, hosting an event for creators in Los Angeles earlier this week ahead of VidCon. The platform has been adding features to its Creator Studio since its launch; this month, Facebook added retention analytics so publishers could better identify repeat viewers, in line with a video ranking algorithm change which prioritizes content that drives repeat viewership.
Facebook has also made major strides in improving monetization, creators said, after a rocky start that saw many creators either missing out on opportunities to monetize their videos or seeing dismal returns. In the months after Creator Studio launched, one creator said that videos with millions of views earned less than the cost of a McDonald’s Happy Meal.
Facebook has taken flak from both marketers and creators over the reliability of its tools. Back in October, ad buyers told Digiday they consider Facebook’s Ads Manager to be the least reliable of all the platforms’ tools; U.K. ad buyers told Digiday earlier this week that they feel gripped by a “perpetual state of uncertainty” because of the frequency of problems and how slow Facebook can be to respond.
Despite the issues, many publishers see Creator Studio as a product that will be an improvement over Facebook’s Publisher Tools, which are inefficient for publishers that maintain multiple Facebook pages, Facebook Watch shows and Instagram accounts. Those sources see a product that will allow publishers to monitor and operate at a higher scale, with less training, than before. “They’re trying to make an easier, simpler tool for high level, day to day operation,” the third source said.