Recent data from SocialBakers found that publishers are seeing Facebook Live viewership stagnate, and while it’s no secret that Facebook is a market leader in putting user experience first, the social platform needs to do more if it wants to keep to keep publishers using – and relying on – it's new formats.
The on-going tension between Facebook’s roll out of products which cater to consumers and the needs of publishers comes as a direct result of a lack of evidence to support how publishers will be able to monetise those products at competitive rates vs that of a direct sell on their own domains. Publishers have been willing, out of choice or otherwise, to try Facebook’s latest and greatest but we are now seeing many pull back from full-scale adoption as the ad revenue to publishers in the ultimate walled garden has not backed it up.
To produce successful live video, including on Facebook, requires expertise, experience and potentially large financial and resource investment on the publisher side. According to re/code some publishers are even assigning multiple employees to create content for Facebook Live2. Media owners with TV businesses may be able to re-position staff but many publishers do not have the depth of experience in their video teams to create volumes of live video or live video formats. To really work, live content needs to be well thought out in advance, executed at a high standard and requires more manpower than that of traditional text-based or pre-made video content.
In a time where many publishers are being squeezed due to declines in ad revenue, hiring and devoting employees to work on creating quality Facebook Live content may become another stretch unless the monetisation plan makes it irresistible.
That’s not to say that Facebook Live can’t work, after all Facebook has a habit of making things work that others have failed at, but it is brands rather than publishers who have seen the most success in using the platform. Boohoo.com runs regular live quizzes where they give away products. These live videos receive significant amounts of engagement3 and work as part of the brand’s larger social marketing activity.
Facebook has acknowledged the problem of monetising Facebook Live for publishers by introducing a test for mid-roll ads but this could mean that publishers would have to shift their current business model. Are we about to see publishers starting to look more like TV production companies who have to consider the impact of ‘ad breaks’ in their content production? The test is currently based on having twenty seconds of advertising for every nine minutes of content, this means that every four minutes of content there is an ad break and then five minutes more of content.
This throws up a classic chicken and egg situation – publishers will not be able to create as much without the ad revenue but the advertisers will presumably want a level of visibility and control over the content with track record before committing precious marketing budgets.
Going Beyond Innovation
Facebook will continue to push boundaries and innovate, but to make the most out of the company’s creativity, they need to concentrate on how content creators can use their new technologies without breaking the bank or ensure that the revenue makes it worthwhile. It’s one thing to make a product that consumers love, but it’s another to make something that both brands and publishers will support on an ongoing basis.