Facebook Updates News Feed Algorithm to Boost Longer Videos

 In Social Media Today

Facebook has today announced a new News Feed algorithm update which puts more emphasis on longer videos posted to the platform.

As explained by Facebook:

“One of the signals we look at is “percent completion” — the percent of each video you watch — to help us understand which videos you enjoyed. If you watch most or all of a video, that tells us that you found the video to be compelling — and we know that completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one. As we continue to understand how our community consumes video, we’ve realized that we should therefore weight percent completion more heavily the longer a video is, to avoid penalizing longer videos.”

So the change is actually based on engagement, rather than video length, but the end result is that longer videos will get more precedence. Facebook confirms this later in the post:

“While we expect that most Pages will not see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update, longer videos that people spend time watching may see a slight increase in distribution on Facebook — so people who find longer videos engaging may be able to discover more of them in News Feed. As a side effect, some shorter videos may see a slight dip in News Feed distribution.”

The update is part of a wider push by Facebook to get people watching longer videos on the platform, which may be the next step in Facebook’s plans to make video on the platform a genuine TV alternative.

This could also be the impetus behind recent findings in a report from Digiday, which suggests that short-form video viewing figures on Facebook have plummeted in recent months.

So how does prioritizing long-form video help in their wider video strategy?

Getting people to watch video on Facebook is one thing – and Facebook’s done that very well (8 billion video views on platform per day, at last check). But Zuck and Co are looking to build Facebook Live with full programs – a recent report by Recode suggested that Facebook will soon stop paying publishers and celebrities to create live video on the network, instead opting to focus on “longer, premium video content” and “TV-style shows”.

“The hope is to get more high-quality video onto the platform and into your News Feed — the kind of stuff, presumably, you might find on Netflix.”

This is the next step for Facebook Live, and Facebook’s wider video ambitions more generally – to make Facebook into a true entertainment hub, the place where you not only talk about TV shows, but where you can watch them too.

In this sense, getting people to watch longer videos, and to see Facebook as a source for longer-form content, is important. They don’t have to be watching full, 30 minute programs on Facebook just yet, but if Facebook can start to train users to view longer programs, they can gradually push out the length of those videos. So that it becomes a more habitual behavior, so that watching full programs on Facebook becomes a more natural option.

The next step then is to get Facebook video content onto your TV, and they’re already taking steps on this front too, with the introduction of their new TV app last October, which enables viewers to stream on-platform video content direct to their TV, via Apple TV or Google Chromecast.

While watching a Facebook video on your TV through the app, you can scroll through Facebook as normal without affecting the playback.

“And if you’re streaming a Facebook Live video to your TV, you can see real-time reactions and comments on the screen, and you can join in the conversation yourself by reacting or commenting.

They’re not there yet, but these are the first steps towards Facebook taking over your TV, which could provide The Social Network with a heap of new revenue opportunities and options – and make it an even more influential media platform than it already is.

This is why getting you to see Facebook as a source of longer video content is important, and the addition of mid-roll video ads on content of 90 seconds or more is another step in this direction.

Facebook wants people to see it as a key source of longer-form, episodic programming. And they’ll do it by adding measures to better incentivize production.

At the same time, Facebook does note that this News Feed update does not mean that all longer videos will outperform all shorter ones.

As always, Pages should focus on creating videos that are relevant and engaging to their audiences. Longer videos that people don’t want to watch will not perform better in News Feed. The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling.”

But still, the impetus is clear. Facebook will reward longer videos – a trend you can expect to see continue moving forward.

The latest News Feed update will be rolling out “over the coming weeks”.

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