Facebook is in the news again. What do I think about the $40 million fine Facebook got for inflating video views. First of all, it's a total fucking joke. For those of you who don't have the context, Facebook just got fined $40 million which for them is literally probably their serial budget for their staff every year so it's nothing. They got fined $40 million for inflating video views. Here is why that is such a sad depressing story that I think isn't getting enough play and that the fine is not nearly high enough for what happened.
Facebook knowingly inflated the number of views their videos were getting. They had it so that if you watched a video for three seconds which is essentially just scrolling over it, it would count as a view. That seems innocuous enough. The problem is that once they launched native video, the views that brands were getting, people were getting, were absolutely staggering. I saw this guy who is the head of video content for Vox talking about it. He was saying they were consistently getting videos that were getting a hundred million views.
I don't really know what hugely viral videos on YouTube do but a hundred million views is staggering and Vox not known for incredibly viral video, was getting consistently being able to pull in over a hundred million views. What happened was all of these companies shifted their strategy to Facebook video. I'm sure if you all follow digital marketing news you heard this idea of a pivot to video, you know how all these news organizations were pivoting to video. This was 100% driven by Facebook native video.
Facebook was pushing people hard to invest in their platform. They were co-branding videos with people, they were courting money behind this, they were actively courting brands and for a lot of news organizations that were already on the brink of destruction, they invested huge amounts of money into teams, into studios and pulled resources away from editorial, pulled resources away from their own website and went a 100% in on Facebook native video. Months later, it turned out to all be a lie and Facebook came out and said, "Oh so sorry, yes, we are completely inflating video views." Those videos that were getting a hundred million, the guy from Vox was like, "We were lucky if we could break a million now."
These entire teams that they had built, all of a sudden, it just wasn't a viable business and it completely destroyed a lot of companies. I think it's a big reason Mic, M-I-C, that news organization, they recently shut down. A lot of companies have gone out of business, declared bankruptcy or had huge layoffs and a big part of that story is the failed pivot to video. A big part of the story of why people pivoted to video was because the numbers that were coming out of Facebook were so unbelievable that it felt like the silver bullet that was going to save them and so they put all their eggs in that basket just to have it fuckin destroyed.
Facebook plays dumb a little says, "Oh, it was a mistake, we didn't mean to. When we caught the bug a few months in, we changed it. I think it speaks to a darker and scarier side of the platform. It's something that we've talked about with IGTV. I know that YouTubers have been frustrated with the views that they're getting on YouTube and then they start posting to IGTV and they were seeing much higher views.
I talked to YouTubers and they're like, "We're thinking about leaving YouTube and going to IGTV." I was like, "Fuckin do not do that. That is a terrible, terrible idea because I can almost guarantee the only reason that you're getting these high view counts on IGTV is because the way they count a view is substantially different than Facebook's." That turned out to be the case. IGTV you had to do 5 or 10 seconds for a view. Facebook, you got to do 30 seconds. These things really, really matter.
A lot of people don't make it past the 15-second mark on a video, they make it past the five or 10-second mark and that is not a view but influencers are seeing that and you're so focused on chasing growth and chasing those numbers that you might follow that to a place that doesn't really make sense to you. I was just trying to look up what TikTok counts as a view. In my very quick search, I couldn't find it.
When you see these insane numbers coming out of a platform, it's important to make sure that we are judging it accordingly and we're making sure that we have an even way to judge these platforms to see how effective they are because you don't want to put your-- One, no matter what, you need to diversify. You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. You can't just blindly trust that these platforms are telling you because they're not to make the world a better place, not to make you money, not to make you feel warm and fuzzy, they're there to deliver value for their shareholders. Facebook is one of the best companies in the history of mankind to do that thing, to provide value to their shareholders.
That is the one and only driving force of their business. If you need proof of that look no further than the fact that they're allowing politicians to run ads with lies in them. Something you could never do on cable, you could never do in a newspaper. Facebook just says, "Fuck it, we don't care. Run an ad to lie." I have yet to see a reasonable cohesive coherent reason why they do that other than it's too hard to fact-check this stuff. So fuck it and we make a lot more money if we let the lies through. I think it is a huge problem. I think that Facebook has changed my life and many other people's, essentially my whole business is based on it.
I sometimes worry about its impact on democracy and y'all are not only complicit but big drivers in this space. I think that something we've been talking about over the last few weeks is just what is your responsibility to understand the impact that we're having on the world and to potentially change our behavior to change that impact in some way.
- Inflating View Counts, Agents and Managers, Travel Influencers