You may know John Green, the author of such hits as The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, has a brother named Hank with whom he shares a few YouTube Channels with, as well as creating a popular streaming convention called VidCon. Well, Hank Green is hopping mad at Facebook for what he calls “theft and lies” pertaining to their competing video streaming options.
Facebook is having a real good time trying to undermine the entire institution of online video … says it’s now streaming more video than YouTube. To be able to make that claim, all they had to do was cheat, lie, and steal. So I wrote a thing calling them out – Hank Green
The truth is, that Facebook does stream more video than YouTube now. How can they not, considering their nealry 1.5 billion active daily users. And Green says that kind of clout allows Facebook videos to be everywhere, on everyone’s feed, while an embedded YouTube video on the social media site will only reach a small portion of that.
“If I embed a YouTube video or Vine on Facebook, only a tiny fraction of my audience will actually see it,” Green says in his bombshell blog post Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video. “But if I post the same video natively on Facebook, suddenly it’s in everyone’s feed everywhere!”
Now you’d think that would be a good thing. Only the Devil is in the details. Green says Facebook’s data is relatively easy to come by and it shows that Facebook gives preference for their videos over embedded videos, even for videos of Green’s page that has 300,000 followers. “This data is pretty easy to come by for us,” Green adds, “and Facebook is happy to admit the strategy.” Green says that while his YouTube channel SciShow will reach between 20,000-50,000 followers at any given time, he only sees a few hundred views from a Facebook post, while the same video posted through Facebook will reach “tens of thousands” in views.
In our analytics-obsessed world, it’s tempting to first ask how to measure whether something is a view, but if we take a step back and just ask what a “view” is, the answer becomes clearer.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s the problem? Well, Green says that while Facebook says they stream more than YouTube, it’s how they describe an actual view. Green says is somewhat dubious at best.
But Green doesn’t use such diplomatic language, he says Facebook is flat out cheating by how it counts a so called view, as what viewers see in the first few seconds of the animated “GIF” in their feed, while most others are measuring the retention at 30 seconds.
“90% of people scrolling the page are still ‘watching’ this silent animated GIF,” Green cites. “But by 30 seconds, when viewership actually could be claimed, only 20% are watching. 90% of people are being counted, but only 20% of people are actually “viewing” the video.”
Ad agencies and brands are confused enough without Facebook muddying the waters by calling something a view when it is in no way a measure of viewership.
Why is that scandalous? Well, because it devalues the chief metric of online video, and that is viewer retention through views. Content creators are usually paid by their views, and if the definition of views becomes muddled, then it become problematic on how they are paid because advertisers don’t really know if the message is getting to out or if their ad revenue is best being utilized. As such, ad rates on online video are artificially low.
What is Facebook doing about it? They’ll take the video down a couple days after you let them know. Y’know, once it’s received 99.9% of the views it will ever receive. Creators have been yelling (apparently into a void) about this for over a year now.
But all that is just bad manners compared to the wide spread theft, or what has become known as “freebooting,” that Green says not only goes on, but it actually encouraged by Facebook’s algorithms. Citing a report by Ogilvy and Tubular Labs, Green says that over 1,000 of the most popular YouTube videos in the first quarter of 2015 were flat out stolen from YouTube and uploaded onto Facebook where the social media site can benefit from ad revenue. But that the Content creator has no compensation, and their only recompense is to complain about it, and Green says that Facebook, drags their feet on taking down the videos until over 99% of the revenue is already earned.
Sadly, Green says that the content creators are hesistant to rock the boat because Facebook is the 800 lb gorilla. And often, users don’t even know that their content has been freebooted because Facebook’s lack of searchability for videos makes it nealry impossible for creators to monitor it.
They also cite that YouTube had its own wild west days where its traffic was largely driven by copyright infringement. And that’s a fair comment. But Google also fixed that problem with their “Content ID” system, which analyzes every video looking for copyright infringement, and automatically taking them down. But Green says that Facebook launched their video service with no such protections.
Even with it, Facebook has a different ad revenue which benefits Facebook over the copyright holder of the content, and they’re benefiting to greatly from this illicit behavior, that Green says one has to wonder if it’s by design.
“Facebook is big enough that it shouldn’t need to resort to these tactics to build its video presence,” Green concludes. “It makes them look weak to be so excited about skyrocketing numbers if those numbers are based on cheating, lies, and theft.”