Facebook has released a new set of monetization options and best practices for video creators as it seeks to build interest in its Watch platform.
And while The Social Network offers significant audience potential, it has its work cut out for it, both in terms of developing consistent audience for Watch programs, and in establishing publisher trust, which has been shaken by recent News Feed shifts.
But the revenue potential alone in digital video is likely worth the investment – in order to encourage video creators to the platform, The Social Network has outlined these new updates.
A key area in getting more content across to Facebook Watch will be in monetization, and providing significant enough incentive for publishers to invest the required time and effort.
This is a difficult one for Facebook, ad YouTube already has a well-established monetization framework in place, which provides more options for publishers to generate revenue from their efforts.
Initially, Facebook paid some publishers to create content for Watch, a practice they’re now phasing out, with their focus is shifting to a more sustainable model, which will rely on ads linked to video content, much like YouTube.
Among their coming video monetization options, Facebook is testing:
- Pre-Roll ads – Facebook says it’s seen “promising signs” from their initial tests of pre-roll ads, which they’re now expanding to additional areas, including in search results and on Page timelines. “For example, if a person searches for a show, a pre-roll may play when they select the episode to watch”.
- Preview Trailers – Facebook’s also testing a new preview trailer format for Watch shows that will improve discovery in News Feed. “When a viewer taps on the trailer, we’ll play a short ad before moving them to view the full episode in Watch. Partners will also be able to boost this format, reaching new audiences and driving more predictable tune-in while still being able to monetize”. Preview trailers will only be available to approved Watch shows.
- Ad Breaks Auto Insertion – Facebook’s also working to advance its recently announced auto ad breaks tool, which automatically detects the ideal place for an ad break within an eligible video. The option could make it easier for creators to understand when and where ad breaks fit best within their content.
- Pre-Publish Brand Safety Check – Finally, Facebook’s rolling out a new option which will enable content partners to submit videos for monetization eligibility review before posting, which will help to ensure their video will receive relevant ad opportunities.
Most of the ad tools announced here are fairly common video monetization options, and its little surprise to see Facebook adding them here - but it’ll be interesting to see how Facebook-originated viewers respond to things like preview trailers, which effectively gate the full content behind an ad.
In addition to this, Facebook’s also announced a range of initiatives to ‘reduce incentives for content that creates less value for people’.
Among the content types Facebook says are of less interest - and are therefore likely to have monetization opportunities removed - are:
- Pages seeking to ‘inorganically’ share videos via paid arrangements with third parties
- Pages using videos with static or minimal movement
- Pages publishing repurposed clips with limited editorialization
These measures aim to weed out some of the junk which could pollute the Watch platform, and turn users away. The key to Facebook building audience on Watch lies in developing trust with viewers that everything they click on will be of value. This likely stems from lessons learned in the News Feed, where memes and clickbait threatened to overrun the stream till Facebook introduced the News Feed algorithm.
Video Best Practices
In order to further help brands create better, more consistent video experiences, Facebook has also included a new listing of best practices for shows, as it seeks to encourage Pages and publishers to produce consistent video content.
Those best practices are:
- Build audiences on Facebook surfaces where people seek out content – Encourage audience engagement outside of News Feed on surfaces that support repeat, loyal viewership such as in Watch, on a Page or in a Group. These places allow for audiences to meaningfully interact with each other to build community around your content.
- Set and fulfill the creative expectations of viewers – A consistent voice and format drives repeat viewing and longer view times. Some successful formats that foster communities of fans around content include serialized shows or videos with a predictable cast and format.
- Establish a release cadence – A set publishing schedule encourages audiences to consistently return to watch the next episode. Posting related videos, photos, or text posts helps to keep your fans engaged between episodes and seasons.
- Create an active experience – Sourcing topics from audiences and engaging with commenters draws the audience closer to the content.
In other words, the best way to build an audience is to adopt a regular TV-show type model, using consistent characters/cast and publishing at the same time every week/month. That, of course, makes sense, and while it may seem obvious, it likely isn’t to all – while the specific notes on generating engagement via fan response is also helpful in planning out your Watch strategy.
Back in January, when Facebook first announced its coming News Feed shift which prioritizes person-to-person engagement over Page content, the company’s News Feed chief Adam Mosseri outlined how Pages and publishers can limit reach impacts as a result of the change:
“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook – in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities.”
In other words, while Facebook’s seeking to push engagement between users, video remains a priority, as it seeks to build Facebook Watch into a viable TV-alternative, and a challenger to the dominance of YouTube.
But in order for Watch to fulfill their vision, Facebook has a way to go – first, in terms of bringing a significant, consistent audience to Watch programs, and then, in using that audience as a motivator to get more creators publishing content on the platform.
As noted, YouTube has a significant advantage in this regard – having been around for much longer, YouTube’s monetization systems are far more advanced, and the platform itself has become synonymous with online video viewing. Facebook, of course, has the largest online audience at 2 billion+ users, but YouTube’s not that far behind (1.5b), and people come to YouTube for the purpose of watching video content, in variance to Facebook.
In essence, Facebook Watch has potential, but they have their work cut out to make it to that next level, and what the platform really needs is great content to raise awareness, and build repeat viewing audiences.
That’s the intention of these new updates and guidelines, to get better quality video content on Facebook – but with regular changes to the News Feed, many publishers will hesitant to invest more into Facebook, especially through more labor intensive video content, as the platform could shift focus at any moment and negate any audience gains they may have made.
Will that be the key element that stops Watch from truly taking off? There are, of course, other factors, but definitely that seems like a significant challenge.
In order to overcome it, Facebook will likely need to provide some assurances – and even then, the value of any such promises would be questionable, considering the company’s propensity for algorithm changes.