Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted again on Wednesday that a video-specific destination would soon be coming to Facebook. In spite of the fact that many parts of the trade press treated the mention of the video hub as an official announcement, this is in fact old news, as Facebook have been publicly speaking about a dedicated video destination since last October. But it is interesting nonetheless to consider how the social giant is likely to approach a YouTube-style offering. Just to clarify, while it’s sexy to talk about a ‘YouTube-killer’, we are talking about a video section that resides within the Facebook platform here, and not a separate website or app.
So what form will it take? When it comes to content, it looks like the initial offering will feature a blend of both user-generated content (UGC) and content from the publishers who are already using the platform today. Unsurprisingly, at this moment in time the most successful video creators on Facebook are those who create snackable content that lends itself to being shared. The fact that Buzzfeed takes no less than four places in the list of the top ten video creators on Facebook, speaks for itself:
At this point in time it would be advisable for Facebook to continue to focus mainly on this sort of content. It took YouTube many years to finally become comfortable in its own skin, and to realise that the community and ecosystem that sprang up organically on the platform had value in its own right. Or, to put it another way, it took them a long time to realise that online video platforms don’t have to ape the TV industry in order to succeed, or to be taken seriously by brands. Facebook to even consider trying to compete with TV content on an ‘apples to apples’ basis any time soon.
When it comes to the user experience, Facebook say the hub will allow users to view videos they’ve saved for later, or videos from friends, from pages they follow, and from other video publishers on Facebook. It will be accessed by tapping a “Videos” icon at the bottom of the Facebook app or in the “Favorites” section on the left-hand side of News Feed on the web. Facebook has already been testing this with a small number of people.
One of the recurring themes of the recent quarterly earnings reports has been Facebook’s staggering video growth. 100 million hours of video is now consumed on the platform each day, and the company’s average revenue per user (ARPU) looks healthier than ever across all markets, 80 percent of which comes from mobile, an area in which many traditional publishers are falling down:
Anxious TV executives will of course be wondering if Facebook is likely to make a serious move into long-form content. At this point it seems highly unlikely. Zuckerberg and co will have observed how YouTube and Snapchat have struggled to combine user-generated content (UGC) and top tier premium content as a unified offering. While both companies have made admirable attempts to be all things to all people, thus far it seems that mixing UGC and premium content tends to muddle the content discovery process for users, not to mention the fact that it cheapens the premium side of the proposition.
However, looking further down the line, Oculus might one day turn out to be Facebook’s gateway into long-form entertainment once — or perhaps, if — VR gains meaningful traction amongst consumers and content producers. But that day is still a long way off and at best we’re still a few years away ‘year of VR’ as a scalable advertising proposition.