Facebook just announced that a miscalculation of its video metrics created an inflated average view time. This means that, on paper, all of the videos posted on the social media platform were viewed in their entirety twice as much as they were in real life.
“We had previously ‘defined’ the Average Duration of Video Viewed as ‘total time spent watching a video divided by the total number of people who have played the video.”
The original algorithm was supposed to take into consideration all of the users who played the video, from its beginning to its end and only for a couple of seconds. The viewers who closed it after a few seconds were also supposed to be taken into consideration because they contributed to the number of times users interacted with the post.
However, when applying the formula, they miscalculated it dividing the sum of the time that was spent watching a video by the number of users who lingered on it for over three seconds.
“[We] erroneously had ‘calculated’ the Average Duration of Video Viewed’ as ‘the total time spent watching a video divided by only the number of people who have viewed a video for three or more seconds.”
By doing so, they eliminated those who played it for a couple of seconds, the individuals who lost interest almost immediately. This lead to an increase in the average view time, making videos seem more popular than they really were.
The miscalculation was the first brick to fall in a domino of social media publicity. According to Publicis Media, the artificial increase was between 60 to 80 percent. This means that media agency who trust their campaigns on statistics used grossly overrated numbers to calculate the impact of their promotional materials.
For two years, media companies based their numbers on the AVT presented by Facebook and now, after the proper modifications were made, the difference between the data displayed during the last two years and that shown now is significant.
Looking at the numbers, and calculating an average 100 million hours of total view time in a single day, divided by the average 8 million views results in approximately 45 seconds of user interaction. However, now that the proper modifications were made, those 45 seconds could become 30, even less.
The error in the calculation of the video metrics can be considered one of the biggest mistakes the social media giant has ever made.
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