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Facebook Measurement Mistake Overstates Video View Time
For two years an error in how Facebook calculates average view time led to dramatically higher averages. The problem shows the need for third-party verification.

A mistake by Facebook in how it calculates video view time has given a black eye to its video efforts and could damage the social network's prestige in the advertising community. As detailed by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook threw out video views under three seconds when calculating view time, dramatically overstating its average. Doing so inflated Facebook's metrics in the range of 60 to 80 percent, and made its fledging online video efforts appear to be far more successful than they are.

Facebook disclosed the error in its Advertiser Help Center two weeks ago, and said it would introduce a new metric to correct the error: The new Average Watch Time metric will replace the Average Duration of Video Viewed Metric. Advertisers were forced to do their own research to learn the extent of the mistake.

Viewing numbers matter to advertisers who have been shifting millions from TV to online budgets. This shows the types of errors that can occur when online publishers refuse to have their metrics certified by independent third-party firms.

“This once again illuminates the absolute need to have 3rd party tagging and verification on Facebook’s platform. Two years of reporting inflated performance numbers is unacceptable," wrote ad agency Publicis in a memo to its clients.

That sentiment is shared elsewhere in the online advertising community: "Facebook's admission that it overstated viewing time is a perfect example of why marketers need objective metrics and they need them to be comparable across platforms. Only by having objective and standardized measures of performance can these large marketing investments be made optimally," says Brian Shin, CEO of Visible Measures.

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