Facebook Adjusts Video Strategy to Favor Long-Form Content

Facebook raised the requirements for inserting advertisements in videos posted on its site and is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to favor pages whose videos draw regular viewers. In doing so, Facebook is buoying the value of longer videos and strengthening its Watch service, but both moves are also potentially frustrating for video publishers already concerned with poor financial returns. Producers’ short videos perform well in the News Feed and longer form videos will require them to expend more resources.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “the changes are designed to incentivize publishers to create more compelling programming for Watch, which Facebook hopes will encourage repeat video viewership among users – a new behavior on the platform.”

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In 2018, Facebook will also, for the first time, test six-second pre-roll ads, “something publishers have requested because the format is a more reliable way to generate revenue from video.” The ads will appear in Watch, not the News Feed, “where Facebook’s users spend most of their time.”

Among the publishers producing original programming for Watch are Bleacher Report, ATTN: and Tastemade.

Facebook expects video ads to help offset “slowing growth in News Feed ads, its primary source of revenue,” and 2018 expenses that “could rise as much as 60 percent compared with 2017” due to more content moderators and more robust safety and security operations. Facebook has changed its video strategy “several times in the past couple years.”

WSJ described the most recent changes to some publishers, who “said they were unhappy with Facebook’s current video-ad products and described the proceeds as middling.” Facebook’s research “showed users were more likely to watch 15-second ads if the users were prepared to watch a longer video.”

The New York Times reports that Facebook has admitted that social media can make users feel bad, which it dubs “a quietly groundbreaking admission” that is based on “independent research that shows its product can sometimes lead to lower measures of physical and mental well-being.” More specifically, “people who spend a lot of time ‘passively consuming’ social feeds do tend to feel worse.”

The American Journal of Epidemiology “showed that people who clicked on more ‘likes’ and links than the typical Facebook user reported worse physical and mental health.” Another study, however, conducted “in partnership with Facebook by Robert E. Kraut, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University” showed that “using Facebook more deeply and meaningfully, for instance by posting comments and engaging in back-and-forth chats on the service, improved people’s scores on well-being.”

This study’s take was that “broadcasting status updates wasn’t enough; people had to interact one-on-one with others in their network” to have a positive result.