Days after Facebook announced that its users watched videos 8 billion times a day, Snapchat told the Financial Times on Sunday that its smaller set of users opened videos 6 billion times a day.
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The statistics reveal fast growth: Since the spring, video watching has tripled on Snapchat and doubled on Facebook. Outside that comparison though, the data points don’t offer much help in stacking up the two social entertainment services, which are competing with YouTube and other video apps for the time and attention of content creators and the pocketbooks of advertisers. Here’s a look at notable differences that make the big figures incongruous.
The most obvious disparity is that Facebook requires at least three seconds or more of a video to play before counting it as a view. Snapchat counts a view instantaneously on load. Both have data that highlight how many videos are played to the end, but neither has publicized that information.
Facebook users mostly encounter videos when scrolling down their news feeds, and many videos load automatically as people go past them. The feature is meant to make videos more eye-catching and to eliminate the need for people to wait for the content to load. But even if someone scrolls past an “auto-play” video and doesn’t actually tune in, it can still be a view. By default, these videos also are muted.
Snapchat requires far more engagement to get a video started. Users have to tap on an icon to load one.
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Neither Facebook nor Snapchat has been entirely upfront about what counts as a video for purpose of the big viewership numbers. Snapchat, for instance, has several different types of videos. There are messages sent between friends, mini posts combined into longer videos and clips from professional outlets such as ESPN and CNN that are interspersed in between articles. In the longer videos, whether Snapchat registers a view for each individual piece or just one overall isn’t certain. Snapchat didn’t immediately respond to requests to comment.
On Facebook, people often share videos from other services that can be viewed within the feed. Those don’t count as a Facebook video view, a spokeswoman said, which means overall video-playback on Facebook is actually higher than captured by the 8-billion number.
Both Snapchat and Facebook are ramping up sales of video ads, though the number of ads they’re selling and the amount of feedback they give to advertisers on viewership is far apart.
Snapchat is concentrating on the biggest advertisers, seeking big deals for a few spots and championing the idea that buying an ad on Snapchat is like buying an ad for television. Facebook is seeking a wider spectrum of buyers, and offering far more precise capabilities and accounting. It’s also planning to split ad revenue with content creators in some cases, but likely with a far larger group than the about 20 media companies that Snapchat does that with.
One thing both companies have agreed on: The days are young in the era of online video.
“It's pretty amazing how quickly it's growing but there's a lot more to do,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts and investors last week.
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