How Facebook Watch is changing social video

September 25, 2017

Written by Benedict Nicholson
Twitter Video

With video still the format that publishers want to master, how has it transformed in 2017?

At the beginning of August, Facebook launched Watch, a new platform within the app that would allow publishers a dedicated place to post their video content.

The platform has so far been opened up to only a few trialists, but will be rolled out to a larger group of creators at a future date.

We wanted to see if the launch of Watch and the chosen publishers’ knowledge that they would have a video-centric platform to work with had any impact on how they approached making and posting videos, so we decided to crunch the numbers.

We looked at five publishers that were selected to participate in Watch’s preliminary stages: The Atlantic, Quartz, Mashable, ATTN:, and Business Insider.

They will all be operating under more specific branded channels within Watch, and usually not under the publication name. For example, The Atlantic’s content will be posted under the “You Are Here” channel and focused on what it’s describing as “the incredible science behind everyday life” rather than the political commentary you might normally associate with the publication.

However, video resources are often limited at publications where it is not their focus. So we thought it would be interesting to see if Watch’s launch is causing publishers to take a more holistic approach and change the way they produce all video content across their brand in the last year, or whether they are concentrating all their resources on Watch-specific projects.

To do this, we looked at videos posted in the month of August from this year and last, and compared what differences there were, if any.

Video-focused publishers

Three of the publishers on Watch’s pre-approved list already had a strong video presence well before the platform was ever on the horizon. Between them, Mashable, Business Insider, and ATTN: published 583 videos in August 2016. All of them had over 25 percent of their total engagements on Facebook being driven by video at this point in time, so video was already a high priority for all of these publishers.

Moving into August 2017, the importance of video remained paramount for these outlets, with 579 videos being published on their Facebook pages. They were, however, more successful in attracting engagement with these videos. Mashable achieved the most impressive total growth, with 3x more engagements year-on-year. Some of this was driven by a higher number of videos posted, but average engagement also more than doubled from 2,810 engagements per video in 2016 to 5,798 per video in 2017.

In fact, average engagement was up across the board. Although Business Insider saw a fall in total engagements year-on-year, this was the result of a fall in the number of videos posted, with average engagement per video rising from 5,002 to 6,158 from August 2016 compared to August 2017.

ATTN:, a platform specifically created to produce shareable video, was ahead of all its peers in 2016, with nearly 5 million engagements at an average of 36,140 per video. 

This continued in 2017 and grew, helped in part by the massive 2.5 million engagements, as the platform achieved 6.2 million engagements on its videos, with each one averaging 59,945. Video drives over 90 percent of ATTN’s Facebook engagements and with numbers like that it’s easy to see why. They also launched a dedicated video channel this year, which drove 800,000 engagements in addition to those on the publisher’s main Facebook page.

These video-focused publishers have all succeeded in driving continual growth in August 2017 compared to the previous year. So what have they been doing to do that?

First of all, these publishers post a lot. They’re all well over 100 videos per month, which is a good metric to look at. But that’s not really something that’s changed a lot, nor can we really say it has definitely influenced engagement.

Nor has the content particularly changed for these publishers, as a cursory look at their top ten most engaged with videos shows. ATTN: has continued to focus on shareable social issues from politics and drug legalization to sexism in the workplace, while Mashable and Business Insider had success with general interest and technology stories in both 2016 and 2017.

What has changed across the board, however, is the length of the videos being produced.

Contrary to what you might expect, the most engaged with videos across all three publications are actually getting longer. If we look at the top ten most engaged with videos across the three, the data is very revealing. Mashable has seen the mean length of its most engaged with videos almost double in length from 1:04 to 1:42, while Business Insider increased from 1:28 to 2:12 and ATTN: rose from 1:20 to 1:30.

This shows that audiences are becoming more willing to engage with longer content, and that the content being made is beginning to reflect this. This of course has implications for the longer form content that is being planned for the new Watch platform.

Video-adjacent publishers

The Atlantic and Quartz are less focused on video. The Atlantic only posted a video every other day, and Quartz varied between one and three videos per day. Compare this with the video-focused publishers such as Mashable, who averaged between five and ten videos per day, and it becomes obvious that Atlantic Media, which owns Quartz and The Atlantic, has quite different priorities.

These publications tend to focus on the articles published on their websites, which drive most of the engagements on their respective Facebook pages. The Atlantic’s videos, for example, are often little more than an interview with the author of a particularly popular article in the magazine to take the viewer through their work.

This could all begin to change with Facebook Watch, however.

Facebook Watch

It’s obvious from the data that audiences are getting more comfortable with watching longer content on Facebook.

From looking at the early videos posted by these publications on Watch, it seems they have noticed this too and are creating videos that last around the five minute mark. The Atlantic is experimenting with animation to add to their normal videos of a presenter talking directly to camera, and Business Insider is continuing their general interest success with shows such as The Great Cheese Hunt.

Watch looks set to help publishers break with the previously received wisdom of short, easily digestible videos, and it appears the media at large is already beginning to recognize that and react to it.

Want to explore how to use social video to grow your audience? Check out our upcoming webinar with Wochit to master all the video skills you’ll ever need. 

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