The Dodgy Bull behind Video Viewership Numbers

The way platforms like FB measure video views gives a wildly inflated picture of what’s going on. Do brands get that?


Facebook counts the “view” at the three-second mark (whether or not the viewer has turned on the sound)

You scroll Facebook, and a video starts playing automatically, not because it interests you in particular, but simply because it’s there in your feed. Congratulations; you’ve just bumped the views up a tick.

The same is true if a video ad launches when you’re browsing the Internet…even if you shut it down the moment you realize it’s playing.

This reality is the crux of the issue behind video’s “dodgy” viewership numbers, and could be quickly leading brands into the next bubble to burst.

“Consumption of digital video is climbing inexorably upwards, it has a reputation for better return on investment for advertisers and the cost of entry is falling all the time,” writes Chris Sutcliffe in The Media Briefing.

“But there are, predictably, significant questions to ask about whether jumping into the video game is a good idea for publishers,” Sutcliffe warns.

“The truth, obviously, is that all video publishers are in competition with every other player, since they’re vying for both user attention and advertisers’ money. OTT services are in competition with UGC-based video sites are in competition with linear television broadcasters are in competition with cinema releases.”

That’s a lot of competition for eyeballs. Exacerbating the situation is the way video views are counted, which could be giving brands an entirely false picture of what’s going on, in much the same way that the digital ad viewability issue did.

“Yesterday, for instance, saw widespread circulation of an article on Gizmodo titled ‘Internet video views is a 100 percent bull**** metric,’” writes Sutcliffe. “Its author, Kevin Draper, explains why linear television companies are irate about digital pureplay claims to have achieved parity in terms of average viewership.”

At issue is what Sutcliffe calls the “overly narrow” definition of what counts as a view, something that Facebook is notorious for and the industry has yet to get a handle on.

One commenter on Sutcliffe’s article summarizes it clearly:

“It’s clear that a view is no longer a reliable measurement of engagement in video content,” wrote Roland Bodenhman.” This is evident by Youtube’s shift in emphasis within its own analytics system from ‘views’ to ‘watch time’. This combined with the ‘average view duration’ gives you a much better idea of how engaged your audience is with your content and how you are faring compared to the wider market.”

Point taken? We hope so. As brands continue to pour money into video (in much the same way they poured it into digital ads), we see some of the same mistakes happening all over again. Let’s go for a bit more sanity this time around, please, or video blockers will be the next must-have.