If you’ve never witnessed a bandwagon effect, then you’re clearly not paying attention to the almost cult-like enthusiasm of Facebook video from the major publishers like Jukin Media, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Buzzfeed and more. Over the last year, Facebook has increased its footprint in the video space, working with major production studios and celebrities — both digital and traditional — to onboard their video on the platform. They’ve also made a push in the live video space, essentially tackling any and every route towards becoming a go-to destination for any format of video.
The company has announced staggering view counts that, on the surface, trump those of its biggest video competitor, YouTube. But, despite the hype, Facebook has five key issues that are a major setback, both for Facebook and the creators uploading video to Facebook.
- Facebook is a Walled Garden for Video Sharing — In a sharing economy where social media and traveling media are crucial to gaining audience, Facebook’s limitations for sharing impact the creator’s incentive to continue uploading natively to Facebook. Currently, once a video is uploaded natively into Facebook, the content is nearly impossible to share outside of the platform. Facebook has led with an embed feature that is accessible via desktop, but this allows the sharer to simply embed the entire Facebook post onto another site. Secondly, Facebook does have an external share link, but finding it is almost impossible. Furthermore, none of these options exist inside the mobile app, where over 500 million Facebook users exclusively access Facebook. Video viewers are able to share, comment, like, as they can on any other post on Facebook, but sharing outside of the platform proves challenging if on mobile.
- Search is Impossible — If YouTube has proven strong in one area consistently, it’s search. YouTube has even made a trends report driven by their own search data and user behavior. On Facebook, however, search is an afterthought. After doing a few key search queries, like “Kids React”, a popular series from The Fine Brothers, and “Buzzfeed Video”, neither search turns up the appropriate videos. Further, to navigate to videos takes multiple clicks. Facebook has historically positioned its timeline as the main mechanism for discovery, given one’s friends and pages followed are the “curators” of the video experience, but if Facebook wants to dominate the video game, improved search will be key. Not to mention the UI of its search product is whack.
Like YouTube, Facebook’s Algorithm is Unpredictable — When Facebook first began onboarding video publishers, it also favored its algorithm towards those publishers and natively-uploaded video, in general. Many publishers were even offered extra “boosting” if they would upload exclusively to Facebook or give Facbook first window on the platform. However, according to various industry executives, Facebook has shifted its algorithm and the viewcounts aren’t as staggering as they were initially. Historically, unnannounced or frequent changes to YouTube’s algorithm have stirred controversy and frustration among creators as they attempt to scale their businesses around constantly changing parameters. Creators like Destorm Power, one of YouTube’s early successes known for his fitness videos, rap parodies and original songs, became disgruntled enough that he moved from YouTube to Vine and Facebook, after penning this OpEd: “Can I Count on YouTube?”. This leads us to the next pain point
for creators on Facebook.
- Monetization — The revenue sharing problem is no secret and one that Facebook was expeditious in tackling as they quickly implemented a rev-share model with publishers. Driving a billion views a month, as was the case with Jukin Media, among others, is fantastic as a business looks to scale valuation and as a marketing vehicle for shows, but when trying to run a revenue positive business, a platform that games views without compensaton is a tough bargain to justify. And various executives in the space claim that the monetization on Facebook isn’t exactly on par with YouTube, yet. The incentive for creators and publishers to keep uploading to Facebook based on view count value alone will likely dwindle as big dollar bidders continue to enter the market.
Freebooting, Lack of Copyright / IP System — Perhaps the biggest issue facing creators who are optimizing their video strategy towards Facebook is that of “freebooting” — essentially illegal uploading of videos, directly in violation of copyright laws. Word of the freebooting problem began to gain steam in early 15 (see the cute video below describing this issue) but caught fire later in the year when YouTube creator Hank Green posted on Medium about Facebook profiting from stolen YouTube content. The result? Facebook announced it would team with YouTube-first media companies Fullscreen and Jukin Media, both of which represent creators and fight copyright infringement on a daily basis on behalf of those creators and their own IP. This is a slow moving process — to create ContentID, YouTube’s fingerprinting tech, from scratch. In the meantime, AudibleMagic, another fingerprint matching technology that identifies music in videos, is the band-aid to the problem. Still hundreds of videos are ripped and reposted on a regular basis, often with dismissive responses by Facebook. And each of these videos represents
significant revenue lost both for the creator and for the publisher, while Facebook still gains revenue on the ads served. Facebook may have staved off the lawsuits, for now, but should more creators get their works hijacked without protection or consequence, it’s only a matter of time before creators rise up.