How one publisher is working around Facebook’s pre-roll ad ban

Facebook has become a video juggernaut for publishers, racking up tons of views. It has not yet become a revenue source, however, as videos uploaded to Facebook cannot carry ads. At least they’re not supposed to.

NewsBeat Social, a distributed news organization that produces 70 one-minute videos a day, is doing an end run. Recently, the 35-person outfit posted videos (below) about the Nepal earthquakes and “Grey’s Anatomy” fandom.

Nepal quake survivor drank his own urine while trapped for 82 hours under rubble

Posted by NewsBeat Social on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ fans start petition to get a beloved character back

Posted by NewsBeat Social on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

NewsBeat Social’s founder, Stanley Fields, prides the outlet on providing unbiased hard news that’s viewable around the world. “We only do news,” he said. “We’re not doing funny cat videos. Just hard news. You’re on a slippery slope when you start to get into opinions.”

NewsBeat Social’s primary outlet is Facebook, where it has 2.3 million Facebook fans. The company uses New Brave World, an ad rep firm, to sell its ad inventory. Through New Brave World, NewsBeat Social has been selling pre-roll video ads on its Facebook-bound videos. Jordan English, founder of New Brave World, said NewsBeat Social has been running ads for IBM and Intel and that a campaign for Visa is on the way.

There’s a problem here. Facebook prohibits third-party ads on its pages, per its published guidelines.

NewsBeat Social’s pitch to brands is its high-quality video with demographic data on who’s watching and clicking through, according to English. He said the publisher also can target ads to specific categories of news. “Brands are really hungry for this type of content,” he said.

NewsBeat Social’s pitch is curious, considering Facebook prohibits publishers from directly selling pre- or post-roll video ads. Until now, Facebook’s publishers’ video ad strategy has been limited to tests of ads run against video with Fox Sports and the NFL, with Facebook splitting the revenue with Fox and the NFL. In a related move, Facebook also has announced Facebook Anthology, a program that would enlist publishers with branded content expertise to create video ads for brands that would run on Facebook.

And for some time, Facebook has allowed publishers to upload posts they’ve created on behalf of brands, or native ads. But it has not permitted not branded video ads, although some have slipped through. Facebook has a lot of clips to police — it records 4 billion video views a day. But it’s shut down publishers’ attempts to run pre-or post-roll video ads when it becomes aware of them, and it may be only a matter of time before it does just that with NewsBeat Social.

Asked how the publisher is apparently skirting Facebook’s rules, English said, “I can assure you that [NewsBeat Social] is in compliance [with Facebook] policies. I’m hesitant to outline the exact ad ops process because I don’t want to accidentally give away any of their trade secrets or spell out the process for their competitive set.”

Asked about NewsBeat Social situation, Facebook declined to comment beyond pointing to its policy. “Third-party advertisements on Pages are prohibited, without our prior permission,” the policy states.

NewsBeat Social is using Kaltura, a video tech platform, to upload its clips to Facebook. Kaltura enables publishers to serve their videos on a range of platforms in addition to Facebook, and Lisa Bennett, managing director of PR and marketing there, and it’s up to the publishers to stay in line with the respective platforms’ rules.

“We always make sure we tell publishers they need to adhere to the guidelines,” she said. “We’re definitely not bypassing them or anything like that.” She said Kaltura has talks with Facebook revolving around distribution and technology, but that she’s unaware of any effort by Facebook to crack down on violations of its ad policy.

Meantime, NewsBeat Social is looking into other ways of making money from its videos outside of Facebook, starting with expanding its presence on YouTube. “We’re trying to be platform-agnostic as we build our brand,” said Tyler Peterson, COO.

Image courtesy of NewsBeat Social.

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