Facebook’s latest video measurement glitch adds to error-prone reputation
Facebook failed to count organic video views for a full weekend in October. Publishers, individual video creators and marketers view the outage as emblematic of both how nascent Facebook’s video platform remains and how error-prone it continues to be.
From 1 p.m. PT on Oct. 25 until 1 a.m. PT on Oct. 28, Facebook was not able to count organic video views, according to a notice the company posted to the video publishing and analytics tools that it provides to companies, screenshots of which were shared with Digiday. The technical glitch only affected the reporting of videos’ organic view counts, not the delivery of videos or the insertion of ads into videos.
“On Oct. 25, we experienced a data logging issue that caused a temporary outage recording organic video view metrics. The issue did not impact ad breaks revenue, distribution, impressions, engagement, paid metrics, Instagram metrics or Ads Manager metrics. We know our partners depend on accurate reporting, we take this very seriously, and our teams are working to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” said Jeff Birkeland, head of creator and publisher experience at Facebook, in an emailed statement.
The immediate impact of the outage is considered to be minimal, according to publishers, creators and agency executives. Publishers and creators did not lose revenue as a result of the outage. Meanwhile, marketers are conditioned to have all but given up on getting organic reach on Facebook, so a couple days’ worth of unmeasured views is unlikely to amount to much of an impact on overall organic view counts, according to multiple agency execs.
However, considering that the outage lasted for two-plus days, there could be longer-term, indirect effects on how companies’ and creators’ video performance is judged. Additionally, the outage marks the latest in a series of technical issues with Facebook’s video platform that contribute to concerns about its reliability. “I saw that message [notifying people of the measurement outage] and laughed since it seems like it’s been buggy for months,” said one creator.
Evaluating the organic performance of any show episodes or branded video campaigns that debuted around the time of the outage — which coincided with the final weekend before Halloween — would need to take into account that reporting gap. That would also be the case for any evaluations of organic Facebook video view counts for the entire month of October and any comparisons made with previous months.
Since Facebook is not able to recover the uncounted organic views, there’s no way to know how many organic video views went uncounted, but companies can try to estimate views based on past performance in order to account for the missing view numbers. In a previous article published by Digiday, First Media president Sharon Rechter claimed that the publisher effectively lost more than 100 million organic views on Facebook in October because of the social network’s technical glitches. As of press time, Rechter had not responded to a later email asking whether the Oct. 25-28 outage was what she had referred to.
The error adds to a general unease with platform-provided measurements, particularly among marketers. “Marketers make decisions based on expected outcomes, and if they can’t trust the data surrounding those outcomes implicitly, it certainly invites a new layer of scrutiny,” said an agency exec.
Facebook’s video platform, in particular, has cultivated a reputation for being error-prone. The company’s history of measurement errors dates back to September 2016 when it was found to have miscalculated videos’ average watch time for two years. That error led a group of advertisers to file a lawsuit against the company; Facebook settled the lawsuit in October 2019.
The errors have extended beyond measurement. Earlier this year creators told Digiday that there was a bug during the first quarter of 2019 that affected the reach of their videos on Facebook, negatively impacting their videos’ viewership and resulting revenue. Facebook’s video publishing tool Creator Studio has similarly been a source of frustration for creators and publishers. In June and July, the tool suffered a series of outages and stopped functioning altogether for a period of time, Digiday previously reported.
“It’s buggy all the time. We’re dealing with it all the time,” said one media exec of Facebook’s video platform.
‘Companies are in freeze mode’: Coronavirus crisis strains ad tech licensing model
Like so many other industries, the coronavirus crisis is rapidly separating the distance between the haves and the have nots in the software-as-a-service sector. In ad tech in particular, there was a rush in the middle of the last decade for companies to switch their models from charging clients a percentage of the media they […]
Member ExclusiveAs the DTC reckoning accelerates, founders turn to each other for advice and sanity
"The coronavirus outbreak notwithstanding, there were a lot of issues that were spread out through the rest of the DTC ecosystem going into the first-quarter of this year," said Jeremy Cai, founder of Italic, which sells luxury bedding, apparel and handbags. "I feel like we are settling into a new normal in many ways of being conservative," he said.
Advertisers ‘don’t want to sound tone deaf’: Candid thoughts of publishers navigating crisis
Publishers gathered virtually to discuss the challenges they're facing within their businesses and what their strategies are for weathering the storm.
SponsoredPublishers are turning to authenticated user data to drive new revenue streams
In a post-GDPR and post-cookie world, more publishers are making concerted efforts to explain the value of their content to users and increase the volume of consumer authentication.
Member Exclusive‘Math doesn’t add up’: Publishers still face tough choices
“Just salary cuts will at most bring the costs down by 10%, at most, I can guarantee,” one exec messaged me.
Complex Networks plans to diversify its way through the pandemic
Complex Networks bills itself as one of the most diversified digital media companies in the business, so it’s counting on diversification to protect its business.