People would rather watch multi-episode video shows and other serialized programming than one-off videos, publishers are finding, which bodes well for Facebook’s new TV-like tab, Watch.
Mashable, for instance, has a show called “Art Of The Scene,” which looks at famous movie scenes. The episodes can run for 10 minutes or longer. On Facebook, the series has twice the average watch time of Mashable’s non-serialized, standalone Facebook videos, according to the publisher. Three other Mashable series, “Sharp Science,” “Bad Days” and “Scamalot,” have an average watch time two or three times longer than its non-serialized videos, the company said.
Those numbers have led Mashable to create themed playlists around its standalone videos. For instance, videos about technology and services that make people’s lives easier are now grouped under the “Operate Yourself” playlist. Mashable Studios president Eric Korsh said the publisher plans to create more themed playlists filled with the short clips it’s making for Facebook every day.
News and issues publisher Attn, meanwhile, has found similar results with its monthly video series “America Versus,” which compares U.S. policies to those in other countries. Views and shares for “America Versus” average 30 times what Attn gets for its one-off Facebook videos, the company said.
“We have been doing [the monthly release for ‘America Versus’] for well over a year, and we’re seeing huge dividends,” said Matthew Segal, co-founder of Attn. “It’s led us to believe that serialized programming on Facebook not only can but does and will work.”
Serialized programming could be an answer to one of Facebook’s biggest problems, which is that people are spending less time on its platform. People — especially younger people — are spending more time on Instagram and Snapchat, leading Facebook to launch products such as Facebook Live and Facebook Watch, which are designed to get people to watch longer videos. The average watch time for Facebook Live videos is three times that of on-demand clips, according to Tubular Labs.
Some publishers argue that serialized, multi-episode programming can boost engagement on Facebook.
Babe, a women-focused publisher from Tab Media, has an animated video series called “Is It Just Me?” that depicts text conversations between characters. The average “Is It Just Me?” episode gets more than 129,000 engagements (likes, comments and shares), which is eight times the average number of engagements for standalone Babe videos. What’s more, 60 percent of the show’s Facebook views lasted 30 seconds or longer during its first season (episodes of “Is It Just Me?” range one to two minutes in length).
This content is available exclusively to Digiday+ members. Join now for access.
Joshi Herrmann, editor-in-chief of Tab Media, said Babe has focused on serialized and episodic video series, and it’s paid off: In the past two weeks, the number of engagements per 1,000 fans for Babe is more than 10 times the average number of engagements among 11 competitors, including Bustle, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Teen Vogue and Seventeen, combined. (Tab Media pulled all of the Babe data cited in this story from Facebook’s API.)
“All Babe has done is basically original videos in a series format instead of the one-off, viral format,” Herrmann said. “The industry has concluded that you have to go to Instagram and Snapchat to engage people, especially younger users. Our data shows that it’s still possible to get amazing engagement on Facebook.”
It’s the best-case scenario for Facebook, which is banking on multi-episode series for its next big stab at video. The company recently rolled out its Watch platform, which will feature video series from media companies and video creators. Facebook is funding some of this programming, including two shows from Attn and two shows from Mashable.
There’s still no guarantee that Watch will succeed. Facebook users may have grown accustomed to seeing autoplaying, silent videos in their News Feeds, but they still don’t go to Facebook to explicitly watch videos like they do on YouTube. And while serialized programming might drive up engagement and time spent with video series in the News Feed, people aren’t necessarily going to Facebook to specifically watch new episodes of “America Versus” and other series. In many cases, they know they have watched and enjoyed previous episodes, so they’re more likely to sit through new episodes, said Segal.
But if Facebook users are willing to spend longer watching episodic video programming — as they seem to be — then it suggests that Facebook has a chance to develop a new user behavior on its platform, where people are choosing to go to watch videos.
“The News Feed is a hits business — not in the sense of a series, but in the sense of any individual unit of content,” said Korsh. “It’s hard to create loyalty [in a show] in that environment, but I think Facebook can do it on Watch. That’s why they’re creating this different experience.”