Is Facebook overtaking YouTube as the web’s video platform?

Desktop video views on Facebook have overtaken YouTube for the very first time. Is YouTube losing its crown as the king of video content?

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Facebook achieved around one million more desktop video views than YouTube in August, according to ComScore co-founder Gian Fulgoni. From July to August alone, Facebook has grown from four billion desktop video views per month to 12 billion per month – a huge rate of growth.

“In the month of August, on desktop viewing, they [Facebook] delivered about a billion more views than YouTube,” Gian Fulgoni confirmed in an interview with Beet.tv.

The overtaking of YouTube is a huge milestone for Facebook but does that mean that the social network is becoming the dominant video platform? Well, no – for (at least) three very good reasons.

YouTube still rules across all devices

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Fulgoni’s comments relate specifically to desktop video views in the US. When you take a look at ComScore’s Video Metrix study for August 2014, you start to see the sort of picture that you would perhaps expect to.

Google sites (of which, YouTube is the most dominant), accounted for 159.8 million unique viewers in August, ahead of second-placed Facebook with 108.3 million. AOL was third with 62.5 million viewers. Overall, there’s nothing in the ComScore report to surprise anyone.

The lure of Facebook

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Facebook is the go-to place for large swathes of its audience. It is the first thing that they look at on a morning, it is what they scroll through on the train, what they update at lunch and what they skim-read in the evening. It is not a destination for specific pieces of content, it’s the destination for social chatter.

If people are seeking out specific content, they’re much more likely to be engaged with it. However, if content is thrust in front of their faces, even if it is from a trusted source, the engagement from that content is likely to be significantly lower.

This brings us on to our next reason.

It’s about the quality of engagement

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The biggest driver behind this growth in video views is auto-play – a caveat that Fulgoni stressed when revealing these statistics.

Facebook automatically starts playing a video when it appears in your feed and counts that as a view – even if a user completely ignored the content. The only meaningful engagement comes when a user actually initiates the video themselves, expressing a genuine interest in the content.

Facebook’s use of auto-play may lead to brands changing the way they produce video content for different platforms, but this is very much an emerging development.

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