Facebook Officially Announces Pre-Roll Ad Tests, Tweaks Mid-Rolls


It’s official: Facebook is going to start testing pre-roll advertising for some of its video inventory in 2018. The company also announced Thursday that it is tweaking its mid-roll ads, and adjusting its newsfeed algorithm to surface more relevant video clips.

Reports about these impending tests first surfaced earlier this month.

Pre-roll ads will be limited to places “where people proactively seek out content,” according to a blog post published Thursday. This means that they won’t show up in people’s Facebook newsfeeds. Instead, Facebook will test them on its new Watch tab, with the logic being that people are more tolerant of the feature if they seek out a video, as opposed to stumble across it in their feed.

The company will also put a strict time limit on pre-roll ads: “We’ll start with 6-second pre-roll with the goal of understanding what works best for different types of shows across a range of audiences,” it said Thursday. That’s different from YouTube, where pre-rolls can in theory be many minutes long, but users often have a chance to skip those ads.

Facebook also announced Thursday that it will tweak its existing mid-roll ad tests. Going forward, the company won’t be allowing mid-roll ad breaks for videos shorter than three minutes, and the ads won’t show up until after the first minute of the video has been watched. Previously, videos as short as 90 seconds were eligible for ad breaks.

Also new: Facebook is tweaking its newsfeed algorithm to give serialized content a boost. If you’ve watched a few episodes of a show in the past, you are more likely to see the next episode show up in your newsfeed. Similar teaks are coming to the discover section of the Watch tab — Facebook is clearly trying to give publishers who regularly produce content for Watch a boost, and show that you don’t need a viral it to succeed with video on Facebook.

That being said, the company committed to not derank viral videos: “Engaging one-off videos that bring friends and communities together have always done well in News Feed and will continue to do so,” it promised in its blog post Thursday.