Facebook has recently been making some important changes to the way it presents and measures the success of its videos. Those changes – such as the feature announced yesterday that allows you to pop out a video from your news feed to view it as you scroll down – appear to be aimed at increasing audience engagement.

But ultimately, many of those changes are mutually incompatible and present the ‘view’ as an accurate measure of audience engagement rather than a proxy of it. This means that the changes Facebook and others have made are potentially bad news for advertisers; bad news masquerading as good.

It’s an issue complicated by the splintering of opinion about what constitutes a ‘view’ in the first place: Facebook counts a ‘view’ – for which it can charge – as a video played and in view for three seconds. For YouTube, that length of time increases to thirty seconds. It means that there is a lack of clarity in the market, one exacerbated by autoplay video and similar endeavours, which could very well cost advertisers in the long-run.

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As digital revenues are becoming increasingly important to legacy publishers, they’re looking to recalibrate their audiences’ sentiments on digital news, to redefine it as something that deserves to be paid for. But, as we’ve argued in the past, consumers are unlikely to want to pay for generic news content since the sheer economics of news online mean they’ll be able to get it elsewhere for free.

So it’s interesting to note that, following the announcement The Sun was to ‘relax’ its paywall to allow certain items of news through, some commentators are claiming the membrane has become permeable enough that basically all the content is available for free now. As Roy Greenslade writes for the Guardian’s media section:

“When asked about the apparent change in policy, a News UK spokesman said: “It is certainly not the case that ‘virtually everything’ is free. In the past week, the vast majority of Sun content remains paid-for…

“But is it really worth £7.99 when more and more material is available without payment? Is News UK on the way to introducing the metered paywall system favoured by most other traditional newspaper outlets?” 

What we’re reading…

  • Facebook’s plagiarism problem: In addition to the issues we wrote about above, Will Oremus for Slate argues Facebook has a plagiarism problem.
  • Who are VR firms’ real competitors?Tim Merel for TechCrunch argues the VR industry needs to be more concerned about the established mobile industry than with industry in-fighting.
  • ‘The End’ for The DissolveThe film spin-off of Pitchfork closed its doors today, in what its editorial director Keith Phipps puts down to “the various challenges inherent in launching a freestanding website in a crowded publishing environment”.