Lawsuit: "pivoting to video" was a disaster led by Facebook's cooked viewing data

Several years ago media sites began firing writers en-masse to hire video people instead, because Facebook and other social media companies told them that this was the future. "Pivoting to video," some called it. But what Facebook actually delivered was "fraudulent" analytics. Advertisers slowly figured out the videos weren't being watched. Facebook lied about it for a while. Then it apparently admitted it. Then the media sites started firing the video people too.

Here's an excerpt from a lawsuit unsealed yesterday, posted to Twitter by Jason Kint, the CEO of an online publishers' trade group.

63. In June 2016, a Facebook engineering manager finally followed up on advertiser complaints dating back to early 2015, writing that "[s]omehow there was no progress on the task for a year." But even once it was decided to take action on the metrics, Facebook did not promptly fix its calculation or disclose that the calculation was wrong. Instead, it continued reporting miscalculated viewership metrics for another several months, as it developed a "no PR" strategy to avoid drawing attention to the error. The company decided to "obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the math" by quietly retiring the erroneous metrics and replacing them with corrected metrics under a new name. For instance, Average Duration of Video Viewed would be replaced with Average Watch Time.

64. In August 2016, Facebook began reaching out privately to select, large advertisers, telling them that Facebook had "recently discovered a discrepancy" in the video ad average view metrics.

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