The Young Turks’ new Facebook-centric video series

Facebook’s video team has captured the attention — and production talent — of YouTube’s top news channel.

On Monday morning, The Young Turks Network premiered the first episode of “Final Judgment,” a show the digital video news network created for its Facebook audience. Each episode of the video series features Young Turks founder and CEO Cenk Uygur rendering a judgment of the top news story of the day. In the debut episode, Uygur excoriates conservatives fighting net neutrality in an unscripted diatribe that runs just over four minutes — a length optimized for Facebook sharing.

“Final Judgment” is a testament to the growing appeal of native Facebook video as an audience-development mechanism for publishers. Facebook did not pay The Young Turks to produce the the series, according to Uygur, so The Young Turks will also post each episode to its primary video channel on YouTube, which boasts nearly 2 million subscribers.

But Facebook worked closely with The Young Turks to create the show, which the two companies jointly conceived during a strategic meeting late last year. Every aspect of the show is designed for optimal reach on Facebook, which offered The Young Turks programming suggestions based on proprietary viewership and engagement data.

“This show is designed only for sharing,” said Uygur. “It’s relatively quick, it’s passionate, it invokes emotion while at the same time basing everything on fact.”

The Young Turks, which has over 280,000 likes on its main Facebook page, has been thrilled with the initial performance of its Facebook videos. After several months of uploading roughly eight videos to Facebook each day, the Turks’ average Facebook video view count now sits at around 20,000, according to the company. Eight hours after posting the first “Final Judgment” episode, that video had already amassed over 41,000 views on Facebook.

Altogether, The Young Turks saw more than 4 million Facebook video views last month, said a Young Turks spokesperson. (Because Facebook videos autoplay by default in users’ news feeds, the platform counts a video view as at least three seconds of viewing, whereas YouTube requires a user to actively click play before it tabulates a view. Facebook also enables a single user to rack up multiple views, unlike YouTube.)

“Because our videos on Facebook were doing so well, so quickly, we thought putting more resources into a collaboration with Facebook would make sense,” said Uygur.

Facebook has a lot to gain from attracting more professional video content, too. The social network hopes to siphon off a slice of the TV ad spend as more marketing dollars shift to digital video. To work toward that aim, Facebook has courted brands, publishers and YouTube stars alike, encouraging all of them to upload their videos directly to the platform. Over the past few months, the company has struck deals with the NFL for access to in-game highlights and ABC for a daily, Facebook-exclusive news show.

“Facebook clearly sees video as being a lucrative market it would like to capture over time,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “It’s a natural evolution for Facebook to move toward more professional video content.”

Despite publishers’ current enthusiasm for Facebook’s potential as a video-distribution channel, “Final Judgment” also highlights Facebook’s current immaturity as a direct monetization vehicle. The Young Turks has brainstormed potential monetization options, but the company has no current plans to directly monetize its Facebook video viewership. The Young Turks monetizes its YouTube views with pre-roll ads, but that ad unit isn’t available on Facebook, likely due to the platform’s autoplay video feature.

“We’re big believers in being early, usually first,“ said Uygur. “If other content creators competitive with us are waiting to get onto Facebook or any other platform because they want to figure out monetization, great, keep waiting. We believe in establishing market position.”

Homepage image courtesy of The Young Turks Network

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