Facebook defends video view definition

We’ve commented before on the difference between what YouTube calls a video view (30 seconds, with the sound on), and what passes for one on Facebook. Now, for the first time, Facebook has publicly responded to criticism that it counts a muted video that automatically plays in a newsfeed for three seconds or more as a video view.

YouTube video creator Hank Green’s Medium post (“Theft, Lies and Facebook Video”) earned official response from Facebook video product manager Matt Pakes. Green’s post didn’t just criticise Facebook’s definition of a video view; Pakes also replying to criticism the company chooses to ignore copyright issues.

Pakes response? “While there is no broad industry standard for view measurement, three seconds is one common choice…If you have stayed on a video for at least three seconds, it signals to us that you are not simply scrolling through feed and you’ve shown intent to watch that video”.

Why should you care?

Green says that Facebook’s definition of a video view is harmful because it gives an inaccurate view of video consumption. And while there are other companies that choose to use three seconds as the default in defining a video view, all have simply followed Facebook’s lead. Those companies — Facebook-owned Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr — also set videos to auto-play (muted, by default).


As can be seen in the example above, there is a precipitous decline in viewership over the first 10 seconds. And, at the 30 second mark, viewership has dropped to nearly 20 percent.

If you’re an advertiser or video creator comparing YouTube and Facebook video view and retention numbers, it’s important to compare like-for-like data. If both companies were reporting video views for the example shown above, Facebook would claim nearly five times the video views that YouTube would report.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.