Facebook vs. YouTube – Who Will Win the Video Advertising War?

The world of video advertising rose a collective eyebrow this month when comScore founder Gian Fulgoni told Beet.tv that Facebook outpaced YouTube in desktop video views this August by about a billion streams.

A key factor behind that stat is Facebook’s autoplay video feature, where any posted/shared video begins to play automatically — with no sound — as it scrolls into view. The result is a huge reach advantage, as these number show.

Other numbers show the same tactic today results in low engagement. For example, total minutes spend on Facebook is less than half that of YouTube. At Beachfront, we’ve been buying in-feed video ads for the past few months, and have seen a video completion rate of around 25 percent, which is far lower than the 80 percent completion rate most advertisers are looking for.

So the question all this raises is one of distribution over monetization. From a distribution perspective, this is a major coup for Facebook. Autoplay, even when ignored, offers at least a few seconds of video before a user scrolls past, and that’s far better then the static screenshot we typically see from YouTube embedded videos.

To Fulgoni’s point, video creators who make the most of those first few seconds really count may see their engagement increase as they gain more eyeballs. We’re already seeing the impact of this strategy on other networks. Tumblr just recently implemented an autoplay video ad initiative, just weeks after Facebook’s autoplay video announcement. The company’s goal is to raise $100 million in revenue next year.

To do so, it plans to make the video ad content THE content (as opposed to a pre-roll ad before the video viewers actually want to see). It already supports Vine and Instagram videos, so we can expect to see branded content using those formats replacing the traditional/typical “ad.” And with Tumblr viewers growing 40 percent to 420 million in just over a year, that’s a serious contender added to the mix.

Ironically, as both Facebook and Tumblr take aim at YouTube for video views and video ad revenue, YouTube is preparing to take the next step into subscriptions.

But what’s most interesting is that Facebook isn’t delineating between a video view and an ad view. Total video views are usually measured as mix of a content views plus video ad views. For instance, just more than 20 percent of YouTube’s views are ad views, according to comScore data. But in the same report, Facebook reports 0 percent ad views.

I’m not sure if that means Facebook is just not measuring video ad units, or if they just don’t consider video ads any different than user-posted videos. This is where the line between advertising and content marketing begins to blur. When does a video that an advertiser pays to place in-feed become content? When it gets a like? A share?

Tumblr, for instance, will charge advertisers on a per-view basis one the video has been watched for two seconds. But it won’t charge if users reblog those videos. While I’m all for good content marketing, somewhere along the line you need to disclose if someone paid for placement, even if it is ultimately shared between friends.

Image via Shutterstock.

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