Facebook Says It Inflated Video-Viewing Metrics for Two Years

Courtesy of Facebook
A woman watching a video on her Facebook news feed onn iPhone.

Facebook has admitted to advertisers that for the past two years it has miscalculated a key video metric showing average time spent watching videos. The Wall Street Journal reports that marketers were recently notified by Facebook that the "Average Duration of Video Viewed" measurement was only including videos that were watched for more than three seconds. Anything less than three seconds was excluded, thereby inflating a closely watched average used to judge advertising performance.

In a letter to ad buying giant Publicis Media, Facebook reportedly said the faulty counting method may have overestimated average viewing time by between 60 percent to 80 percent. Companies like Publicis caught wind of the discrepancy when Facebook posted a clarification and apology on its Help Community page for business marketers. In the post, Facebook announced it was replacing the disputed metric with one called "Video Average Watch Time," which will include "plays that start automatically and on click."

In a statement, Facebook insisted that the overstated numbers did not impact billing. "We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics," the company said. "This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns."

While it looks like Facebook wants to put this issue behind them, marketers likely have more questions on the matter -- and according to Bloomberg they’ll be meeting with the social media giant during next week’s Advertising Week conference in New York City.