Will You Watch? Facebook Set to Test Mid-roll Video Ads

They’ve got the world publishing videos at a mighty pace; now a plan is launched to monetize it.

We’re all familiar with the YouTube video experience. You hit play, and then count down until you can click away from the pre-roll ad and get on with the cat capers. Now, Facebook is going to be testing mid-roll ads, to help publishers make money off all those videos they are publishing.

Facebook, of course, never allowed pre-roll ads in their videos; maybe they knew that 90% of viewers skip pre-roll ads whenever possible.  Still, it’s time to help publishers monetize all that video real estate.

“While publishers have devoted more resources to producing videos for Facebook, the long-term business model has been largely unclear, particularly because the company has vowed to avoid YouTube-style pre-roll video ads,” explained Steven Perlberg in The Wall Street Journal.

Now that’s set to change, if the testing pans out.

“Industry sources say the social network is going to start testing a new ‘mid-roll’ ad format, which will give video publishers the chance to insert ads into their clips after people have watched them for at least 20 seconds,” notes Pater Kafka in Recode.

“If the new ads take off, they could represent the first chance many video publishers have had to make real money from the stuff they’ve been running on Facebook,” Kafka notes.

Facebook, for its part, seems to be placing more emphasis on the quality of the engagement (the length of time the video runs) than on the total number of views.

“The parameters of the new ads also suggest that Facebook is placing more importance on the time people spend watching videos, rather than the total number of videos they watch,” Recode’s Kafka noted. This could be in part because of the backlash they received on their dodgy video metrics last year, lending credence to the idea that the video bubble will be the next one to burst.

According to Kafka, the new ads won’t appear unless: the entire video is longer than 90 seconds; and the viewer watches for at least the first 20.” In other words, Facebook is telling publishers that in order to make money, they need to make clips that go on for a while and keep users’ attention,” Kafka explains.

Will publishers and their marketing partners get on board? If Facebook can get the reporting right and rebuilds publisher trust in the video metrics, maybe. The larger question is will consumers tolerate the interruption mid-roll. That, I imagine, is the harder sell.