In a little over a year, Facebook video went from simply being one of the content types that could be shared to the user timeline to a 8B video views per day powerhouse that’s also a huge priority for Mark Zuckerberg. We’ve heard about the big numbers from digital native publishers like AJ+ and NowThis, and we’ve heard from the doubters who say that the metrics don’t hold up to traditional TV measurements. Television comparisons aside, the reach that digital video on Facebook has for creators often towers over their traditional Web and mobile offerings, and that’s after years of promotion and audience building.
Video on the Facebook platform isn’t going away, but it isn’t going stay the same either. As deep as Facebook’s pockets are, video is expensive to serve (that’s right, YouTube, after all this time, still struggles to make a profit), so serving up millions of non-monetizable clips of your cousin’s soccer game is not a legitimate business plan. Additionally, since Facebook controls the platform where the content sits, it has the ability to push new technologies, experiences and other business objectives, just as they recently have with Facebook Live video. Chances are that we’ll see old video formats mutate and perhaps see the creation of entirely new types of storytelling. Let’s take a look at ways video on Facebook will continue to evolve:
Wait a minute? What happened to all that talk about ‘shorter is better’ for mobile? Well, we did see a full year of explosive growth around short form video, but Facebook is already hinting that they might give preference to clips that users spend more time with. In best practice documents around Facebook Live, Facebook recommends that creators broadcast for longer durations and they recently tweaked their algorithm to favor posts that generate longer consumption times. YouTube widely communicated that clips that contribute more time to overall session durations are favored in their algorithm, so it makes sense that Facebook would follow YouTube’s lead. Additionally, as it’s easier to monetize longer clips than shorter ones, you can expect to see longer clips begin to fill your timeline.
Facebook already gave live videos top priority in what surfaces first on your timeline. And now that Twitter (who has their own mobile live video platform, Periscope) has secured the rights to Thursday Night Football, the fight to broadcast ‘must see’ live events on social platforms is officially on. Users may be posting fewer personal updates on Facebook, but pushing a live platform that has tightly integrated alerts can help Facebook recapture audience that might be escaping to SnapChat and other messaging apps. High profile live events still generate some of the largest ad dollars on TV, and that model is sure to follow on Facebook.
Facebook buying Oculus for $2B means that you’ll be seeing plenty of 360 video on your timelines as a gateway to get you interested in more immersive VR experiences. Most of the 360 clips that Facebook has pushed so far have transported users to places that they can’t normally go (into the Star Wars universe, in the gym with Lebron James, etc.) where the user can control the angle of the view within the scene. But 360 video/VR can also provide more substantial forms of storytelling, such as Nonny de la Peña’s “Kiya” piece that places viewers into a domestic violence setting. As production equipment costs fall and new tools continue to emerge (like Google’s Project Tango that help storytellers quickly created 3D models), we’re sure to see more substantial 360/VR content on Facebook.
One of the best aspects of Facebook Live (and on Meerkat and Periscope before that) is the interaction between broadcasters and the audience via real time comments. At the recent F8 conference, Facebook Live partners Telescope showed off their Live Studio tool suite that allows broadcasters to add real time polling data on their broadcasts and feature specific comments on screen. Meerkat previously allowed broadcasters to let other users hijack their stream for 60 seconds. All of this opens up the field for innovative programming types where the audience is a more active part of the show.
** Yes, Facebook has flooded your timelines with video and they’re clearly now a player in the digital video space, but it’s unclear if serving 8B+ views per day is sustainable, even for a rich company like Facebook. If Facebook does decrease the volume of clips that show on user timelines, creators will have to make content that is less general and more targeted to specific audiences using Facebook’s Audience Optimization tools. Reaching audiences that are truly interested in your clips gives you the best chance at longer view durations and higher engagement (two indicators that will please the Facebook algorithms) and targeting tools can help you find those interested viewers.
Bonus point: Recent studies have found that 85% of video on Facebook is watched without sound and that optimizing clips for silent mode can increase view time by 12%. Will this trend continue as Facebook might start to push longer programming? Or will those format types evolve into a new type of programming that are optimized for mobile viewing? And will Facebook’s new engagement graph feature drive the production of longer content since users will now be able to navigate longer clips? Tell us in the comment section below.This post was originally published on the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) Office of Digital & Design Innovation blog by Randy Abramson, Director of Audio + Video.Edit