Facebook today announced a series of changes to the way it ranks videos on its social network, which determines how widely they’re distributed. According to the updated guidelines, Facebook will now prioritize videos that focus on original content, those where users are engaged for longer periods of time, and those where users return repeatedly to watch more.
The company wants to feature more high-quality videos, and less of those that feature “unoriginal or repurposed content” from other sources where there’s been little value added, it says. That seems to imply a bit of crackdown on the prolific video memes — those that lift someone else’s content (sometimes without proper credit) and then publish it to their own Page to cash in.
Facebook says it’s also now going to demote videos from Pages that are involved in Sharing Schemes. These are programs run by unethical content mills which compensate other Page owners for posting content and running ads to promote it.
In addition, Facebook will reward videos that have a more engaged and loyal fanbase.
Before, Facebook encouraged video creators to keep their viewers watching for at least a minute. Going forward, it will actively add more weight in rankings to those videos where viewers watch for at least three minutes.
And it will reward videos where viewers repeatedly return to watch week after week.
The goal with the changes is to promote those videos that people value, the company says, while also helping great video creators reach more people across the social network by way of improved distribution.
The changes come at a time when Facebook’s video effort, Facebook Watch, is facing increased competition for viewers’ time and interest from a range of players, including Apple’s streaming service Apple TV+, as well as number of places to watch free, ad-supported content, like The Roku Channel or Amazon’s IMDb, for example, in addition to, of course, YouTube. And soon, the highly anticipated streaming service from Disney will eat into more of viewers’ time, too.
Facebook Watch has also been dinged for featuring low-quality content compared to newcomers like Apple TV+, which has signed big-name talent like Spielberg, Witherspoon, and Oprah. Meanwhile, Facebook Watch has focused on things like MTV’s The Real World or Buffy re-runs in terms of its “premium” content.
With YouTube recently promising its own original content will become free and ad-supported in time, Facebook needed to keep up by making its own video site less meme-filled and more engaging than before. That can only happen if it promotes videos when they meet certain quality thresholds — which is what these guidelines aim to address.