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Facebook Gets More In-Your-Face

By Richard Adhikari
Feb 17, 2017 10:41 AM PT

Facebook this week announced new features for News Feeds videos, along with an app for TV.

Facebook Gets More In-Your-Face

News Feed videos now have sound turned on by default in mobile devices. This can be disabled in the Settings menu.

A larger format to present vertical videos now is standard on iOS and Android devices. The feature became available as a preview last year.

A Watch and Scroll feature lets users minimize the video they're watching and drag it to any corner of the screen so they can continue browsing their News Feed while the video is playing. Android device users can keep the video playing even when they exit the Facebook app.

Facebook also announced a video app for TV, which it promised to roll out soon to Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV. More platforms will be added later.

The app lets users watch videos shared by friends or posted on Pages they follow. It lets them watch previously saved videos, and revisit videos users have shared, watched or uploaded. It also recommends videos.

"Facebook continues to innovate with a focus on the user experience," remarked Cindy Zhou, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"Competition is fierce for user time and attention on video platforms," she told TechNewsWorld, "and the new video features on mobile devices can give Facebook a competitive edge against YouTube and SnapChat."

Mobile Marketing Moolah

"Facebook has been trying to provide a compelling new way for advertisers to reach viewers," observed Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

"What is effectively a video-streaming service would seem to be a good way to do it," he told TechNewsWorld. "It works for YouTube."

With its 1.86 billion monthly active users, the updates and the TV app "will be a significant way to generate advertising revenue if Facebook can get this right," Jude noted.

Digital ad revenues grew 19 percent year over year in the first half of 2016 to hit a new high of US$32.7 billion, according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report.

They continued to grow, with Q3 2016 digital ad revenues totaling $17.6 billion, the highest Q3 digital ad spending figure on record, according to IAB.

Facebook last month announced it was updating the way it accounts for video completion rates.

"These video viewership and completion stats are a key part of their advertising rate calculations," Constellation's Zhou pointed out. "The longer Facebook can keep their users engaged and on their platform, the higher the rates they can charge advertisers."

The new video features and the TV app could pose a significant threat to YouTube's ad revenues, she suggested, "as Facebook feed videos are from trusted sources such as users' friends, family members and the brands they've opted in to."

Ripple Effect

Facebook's latest moves "will further fragment the advertising spend and make advertising campaign planning harder," Frost's Jude pointed out. "Anything with a video stream built in will be more attractive to consumers."

The ability of Facebook videos to continue playing on Android devices even when users exit the social media platform "can be a virtue if you want to keep something running while you multitask," Jude noted. "Of course, it can also be an irritant as you try to figure out how to shut off an obnoxious video."

This feature might also raise concerns about privacy, he said, as "anything involving targeted advertising raises privacy concerns."

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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