Facebook's Fake Video Stats Might've Crashed The Online Media Economy
As you're probably aware, the internet economy is an absolute shambles at the moment. Or you might not be aware. A lot of news websites have closed down, after all.
One of the big reasons for this was the ill-fated "pivot to video," whereby online outlets started focusing less on written content and more on the kind that starts with "What's up, YouTube?" Why? Mainly because they could see through Facebook's tools that videos shared over social media got way bigger numbers than written articles. "We're entering this new golden age of video," Mark Zuckerberg proselytized in a 2016 interview. "I wouldn't be surprised if you fast-forward five years and most of the content that people ... are sharing on a day-to-day basis is video." Naturally, everyone wanted in on that action.
Fast-forward a few years and ... whoopsie-doodles, it turns out Facebook was lying their asses off.
The video metrics that Facebook reported to publishers -- such as total number of views, average viewing time, etc. -- were inflated by as much as "60 to 80 percent," a little glitch they reportedly discovered in early 2015 but didn't (quietly) cop to until September 2016. They knew this looked bad, because it was bad, so they rolled out the fixes veeeeery slowly and without telling anyone, specifically so that "advertisers ... won't notice significant changes." It's like if a restaurant found out they'd been accidentally seasoning food with rat poison, then took two years to replace it because they didn't want to change the taste.