Will Facebook Be the Platform for Your Next Movie?

Facebook's new video algorithm encourages longer content.

From the evolution of the internet, conventional wisdom has been that shorter is better when it comes to viral videos. Now that the line between the web and traditional distribution platforms has almost completely blurred, Facebook is placing its bets on longer content.

The company announced in a blog post that it will be changing how it accounts for “percent completion” of videos, in favor of longer work. Currently, short and long videos are weighed the same in terms of percent completed. The change that Facebook is making will weigh percentages of longer videos watched more heavily, because, “We know that completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one.” This change is expected to give a bump to longer videos in News Feeds, while resulting in a slight dip for shorter ones.

In addition to duration watched, the analysis for surfacing videos will include whether viewers choose to turn on sound, and if they view the video in full-screen.

With this move, Facebook is positioning itself as a potential competitor to streaming services like Amazon and Netflix.

So how long should you make your videos? The Facebook blog advises, "The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling." Essentially, the algorithm can't make people watch a boring video, so concentrate on quality over duration. The post also recommends reviewing your video insights in Page Analytics to better understand how your videos perform.

This algorithm shift is a big pivot from just this past spring, when the platform made a push to prioritize Facebook Live videos, even paying celebrities and media outlets to create live streams. None of those year-long live video contracts will be renewed.

With this move, Facebook is positioning itself as a potential competitor to streaming services like Amazon and Netflix. No word yet on whether the company will be creating its own original content, or even purchasing work for exclusive distribution, but it is more likely than ever that audiences might find and view your next movie on a social network.     

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IMO, they need to change the searchability for videos on FB. Videos get a initial, short viral ride and then viewership falls of like pirates jumping from a drowning ship. And then videos just collect dust in forgotten folders. Until this shifts, it's a frustrating decision of whether to take those first giant hit of views and then let it die in the shadows, or try to push out outside Vimeo/Youtube link and face the friction the algorithm gives to outside links, but build a long life slow audience outside the FB ecosystem.

January 27, 2017 at 10:32AM


Totally agree, Ben!

January 27, 2017 at 11:11AM

Liz Nord
Documentary Filmmaker/Multi-platform Producer

So are you getting paid to post your movie on facebook at all?

January 27, 2017 at 11:52AM

David Prokopchuk
Photographer / Film Maker

Up till now I am not impressed by fb video.
The image quality is worse than YouTube, it lacks the interactive (marketing) options youtube has and the number of 'views' is very volatile and only seems to be designed to create the illusion of a larger reach through fb than through YouTube.
The amount of views appear 5 to 10 times higher on a fb video, until you check the statistics and discover that the numbers of viewers that drop out in the first 10 seconds is much larger than on YouTube. Hooray for autoplay to great a higher number of views!

Facebook might want to be important for video, but they still have a few problems:
- image quality
- search engine
- the reoccurring dubious user agreements that 'by accident' claim all the rights of whatever you upload

However, history shows that doesn't have to stop them. VHS defeated all other videotape systems despite it's shortcomings :-p

January 27, 2017 at 4:12PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

Facebook is getting scary. You have to go on an entire Scavenger hunt to be able to contact them, yet they keep expanding their grip on the media. Meaning they can reach MILLIONS of people with falsehoods and censored truth. It feels scummy and scary. Especially since it's almost impossible to hold them accountable or to reach them for comment...

January 28, 2017 at 9:57AM

Thomas Bunink
Student/Self Employed Freelance Filmmaker

Better idea: It would be nice to make a movie about a future where Facebook is omnipotent, spies on people, make money on them and these are unhappy and feel lonely and sad, while they pretend to be the opposite on FB. ¡Wait a moment! Maybe it is about the present.

I know, my position is political.

January 28, 2017 at 2:40PM, Edited January 28, 2:41PM


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January 28, 2017 at 11:28PM


I think that people don't link facebook with watching neither shorts or long films. The bread and butter of facebook is easy-digesting contents. Only 1-minute videos are watched until the end in facebook, and only short articles are read until the end. People who want to watch videos go to YouTube,vimeo,etc. Facebook is trying too hard to fill every single part of the internet.
Plus, this is a too long shoot to compete with Netflix or Amazon.

January 29, 2017 at 12:25PM

Abi Stricker

Agreed. Facebook is better off with short content. Particularly, I get this weird anxiety when on facebook, feeling like there's too much to do and see and I can't waste too much time on anything because notifications keep appearing from posts I've interacted with, etc. If I want to commit to longer and more complex experiences I'll go somewhere else.

I don't know what other's experiences with facebook is like, but on my computer I always have the facebook tab muted because of the notification noise (which, come to think of it, is probably a setting I can change), so I almost never watch a video with sound. Usually I stop and pay attention if I get interested in videos that started rolling automatically and have graphic lettering to accompany every single word that's said, like the ones by Seriously.TV, because like that I don't have to unmute the tab.

And I never watch the video on fullscreen. The quality is sh*t already on the thumb.

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