Navarra Calls out Facebook on Faking Video Demand

Facebook has a vested interest in boosting video viewership. And Matt Navarra, direct of social media for The Next Web, called them out on it.

“In my opinion, Facebook has and still is creating a fake ‘demand’ for video. Video only looks so popular because Facebook’s algorithm is making it that way,” Navarra writes on Medium. “It intentionally prioritizes and shows us all more and more video so there is a corresponding meteoric rise in video views.”

This puts publishers, Navarra believes, under mounting pressure to produce more of the costly and resource-heavy content, just to stay in view.

“When Facebook changes its strategy or achieves its aims from doing this, it could (and probably will) just as easily reverse the ‘demand’ for or ‘popularity’ of video,” Navarra continues. “This will leave publishers without deep pockets and an agile setup in a difficult spot.”

In other words, publishers are being played, and at a huge cost. Many publishers now are overstretching their budgets to include video – even as FB offers up sketchy viewership metrics and publisher engagement, in general, is plummeting.

“I fear it’s going to be a bleak and harsh winter of Facebook media publishing discontent in 2017,” he notes.

Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri took issue with Navarra’s ideas, responding to his post via Twitter:


He and Navarra exchanged a civil but intense direct message string, which Navarra made public in the updated post (read the full exchange here). Mosseri basically asserts that they don’t “boost video,” but his arguments fall somewhat short of convincing.

As Navarra points out, Facebook has a lot of solid business reasons for boosting video; stickiness, engagement, plus the potentially lucrative market of mid-roll video ads.

“Also, native video vs videos or articles outside Facebook is another benefit for Facebook. It stops users leaving the platform to consume content,” he writes. “Having users spend more time inside Facebook means greater revenue for FB for all sorts of reasons.”

I get the feeling that there are a lot of people out there doing the slow nod in agreement with Navarra. Facebook has infiltrated itself into publisher marketing strategy in ways that would be unthinkable 10 years ago. And this leaves those publishers at the mercy of the next algorithm, rather than sailing their own ship.

Good for Navarra for calling them out, and for saying what so many of us have been thinking. The veil is getting thinner, guys.