Facebook, aiming to draw more premium video to its massive platform, is giving media partners more fine-grained looks at the demographics and engagement patterns of the social network’s viewers, as well as new tools for producing 360-degree videos.
But the developments show Facebook is still primarily in “build audience first” mode on its video strategy — and catching up with YouTube on the features front — even as publishers clamor for better ways to monetize their video content, including the ability to sell their own ads. Facebook has been kicking the tires on video ads served in third-party content, including a test of mid-roll ads of up to 15 seconds in Facebook Live streams, but the company has said those efforts are a work in progress.
For now Facebook is encouraging video-content owners to shovel even more material into the social maw, essentially asking partners to trust that robust monetization features will arrive at some point, while it’s also paying select media partners and celebrities to produce Facebook Live programming.
To that end, the company is introducing new video metrics in its Page Insights and Video Library sections, available starting Wednesday and rolling out to all publishers in the next couple of weeks.
For the first time, Facebook publishers will be able to analyze minutes viewed by age, gender and top geographical locations, and compare demographics for an individual video against typical video viewers on their pages. YouTube, it’s worth noting, has provided such demographic data and analytics for several years.
In addition, Facebook will offer breakdowns of views and minutes viewed from an original video post versus shares and cross-posts of the video, to provide insight into what kind of content lends itself to sharing; according to Facebook, 48% of video watch time on the service comes from shares. The data on shared-video viewing and audience demographics will be available across all video, including Facebook Live and 360 videos.
In addition, for Facebook Live streams, the company will now show the volume of reactions, comments and shares throughout a live video, a feature designed to help publishers gauge viewer sentiment and identify the most compelling moments.
Facebook also is providing two new tools for 360-degree videos. The Guide feature lets publishers create a guided “lean back” tour of 360 video, to automatically direct viewers around the video to specific points of interest as it plays. Media partners that have already used Guide in 360 videos include CBS Sports, GoPro, ABC News and the New York Times, according to Facebook.
In concert with Guide, the new Heatmap tool shows which portions of a 360 video’s field of view the audience has spent the most time watching; that will be available for any video posted after late April that has more than 50,000 unique viewers.
Since Facebook debuted 360 videos last September, more than 250,000 videos in the format have been uploaded to the site.