Game of Thones : Facebook vs Youtube for video

Game-of-Thrones

This is a cross post from my work site.

Tuesday night niche parts of the internet went a little bonkers when the season 6 trailer of Game of Thrones was released, a week earlier than any fan anticipated.

HBO released the footage simultaneously on Facebook and Youtube. Both platforms quickly racked up millions of views, but I was really interested to see the what the difference was between the two and what that could mean for video sharing….(I promise there are no Season 6 spoilers in this post!)

Actually my thinking started last month when Ok Go – an American band, in part famous for their innovative music videos – released their latest video and chose to do so on Facebook only.

If a band that is famous for its music videos chooses Facebook over a dedicated video sharing platform, what does that mean for online video sharing? Has facebook overtaken Youtube as a video distribution platform?

Game of Numbers

Lets have a look at the figures that are publicly available for the Game of Thrones trailer, which used both platforms for a comparison.

14 hours after the release of the trailer the Youtube upload had gained over 6 millions views:

Game of Thrones Youtube

But the footage shared on Facebook,  well, that had over 19 million views:

Game of Thrones Facebook

 

So on the face of it, Facebook appeared to be performing over 300% better than Youtube.

But is it?

I suppose that depends on how each platform counts its views – how long does a video play for before it’s considered a view?

I’ve done some googling and Youtube, it seems, just don’t tell you what their time limit is – they don’t want people gaming the system, especially when you-tubers can earn income from advertising on their videos.  This from Atlanta Analytics seems to be the most plain English explanation on HOW Youtube counts it’s views:

“YouTube video count WILL increment when:

You watch a video on youtube.com, as long as you don’t reload the video a bazillion times….You watch an embedded video (using YouTube’s own HTML5 or Flash player) on another domain that requires you to hit play.

YouTube will NOT increment video count when:

You watch an embedded video in a player that has autoplay enabled (video begins playing immediately on page load).You watch a video that is loaded through a proprietary player via the YouTube API.”

But Facebook’s own insights shows me that public view count is:

“…videos on your Page watched for 3 seconds or more.”

From what I can gather from my reading it counts everything on it’s site or embedded elsewhere with or without autoplay.

So if videos on Facebook auto-play while you are scrolling through your feed, and if you are pausing for just a few seconds to read friends updates above or below the post it registers as a view, How accurate an indication of view counts are these figures? Did the Game of Thrones trailer really rack up that many views?

A look at Facebook Insights

Now I don’t have access to Game of Thrones video insights, but I do have access to other pages we’ve shared videos to and I can take a closer look at the figures there.

This is a video we shared onto the Stirchley Baths facebook page

On the public side of the site it says it has had 431 views, which for a page with 975 “likes” is just under half the audience, but when we look at the overview insights they tell a different story.

Ron-Colley-Stirchley- Baths

Of the 431 views, 348 were unique and on average only 28% watched to completion.

And when we really dig down and export the data to a CSV it tells another story again.

Lifetime Total Video Views 431
Lifetime Unique Video Views 348
Lifetime Total 30-Second Views 98
Lifetime Unique 30-Second Views 85
Lifetime Total Views to 95% 56
Lifetime Unique Views to 95% 54

So according to the insights of the 431 views, only 56 watched to almost completion, that’s 12% of the total number displayed by Facebook as a “view” And when we throw in another set of stats. Facebook’s Autoplay vs Click to Play figures then it tells you something else again:

Lifetime Total Video Views 431
Lifetime Auto-Played Video Views 402
Lifetime Clicked-to-Play Video Views 29
Lifetime Total 30-Second Views 98
Lifetime Auto-Played 30-Second Views 76
Lifetime Clicked-to-Play 30-Second Views 22
Lifetime Total Views to 95% 56
Lifetime Auto-Played views to 95% 40 
Lifetime Clicked-to-Play views to 95% 16

The number of people who actively chose to click to watch the video was far far lower than those that watched it through auto play, but the retention rate of those that chose to watch to almost completion was much higher when someone had chosen to click on the link (10% on the AP compared to 52% CTP).

You can also break this down further in the insights if you want to, to people who watched with and without sound, but you don’t need to to see that Facebook’s Autoplay in news feed has a positive impact on viewer numbers on its platform, but nowhere near to the degree that the public facebook figures would have you believe.

The same video on Youtube had much lower viewing figures (30 overall from 26 unique users) but had a 74% view to completion rate. A true like for like comparison with Youtube is not possible as Youtube don’t give as detailed analytics as Facebook, but on the face of it people who watched via Youtube, watched for longer.

Maybe this is because they are on dedicated video sharing platform, or viewing an embed on a site where they’ve intentionally gone to find news on a project.

Who’s the winner?

So which is better for video sharing? I think it depends. Looking at the Game of Thrones trailer was a folly. It is a massively popular television series with an audience of millions and fan base that has eagerly awaits any tidbit of information and will watch, re watch and share any news they can get on any platform it’s on.

But for community use, for local news and for niche topics both is best. Youtube for it’s search and the ability to share , tag and target niche audiences and Facebook for the sheer numbers, the way it will appear and re appear in peoples timelines and for accessibility.

But which ever is best I think we can see that when looking at popular content we can’t take the viewing figures at face value and if you want to embed a video using Youtube, don’t have the autoplay enabled if you want the view to count.

I suppose I should also finish this with a disclaimer. I am a Game of Thrones fan and this all started with me blatantly getting my Game of Thrones fix while I impatiently wait for the the sixth season to start in April, or George RR Martin to (finally) finish next book installment of the series The Winds of Winter, but I had some useful musings from it.

Talking about social media and doing things in the community

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