clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Old Media Says New Media's Video Numbers Are Bogus

Sometimes a billion isn't a billion (say the TV guys, who hope that's true).

MovieClips via YouTube
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Hey you! Snapchat! With your four billion video views a day! You too, Facebook! And definitely you, too, YouTube.

All your audience numbers, which make it look like you’re dwarfing the TV business, are phony. Or, more precisely: Your audience numbers are much smaller than TV’s numbers.

So says Joe Marchese, writing on Medium, responding (of course) to another Medium post from VC David Pakman.

It’s a good essay, and we can discuss its content in a moment. But the first thing to note is that Marchese isn’t just your average dude on Medium — he’s the guy in charge of figuring out how 21st Century Fox figures out the brave new world of digital advertising.

That is: Joe Marchese isn’t formally speaking on behalf of Rupert, James and Lachlan Murdoch here. But it’s reasonable to view his argument as their argument, too.

Okay. On to the argument. Marchese is really making two points here. One, which lots of people agree with, is simple: When Facebook or Snapchat, YouTube or any digital platform talks about video metrics like “views,” they’re usually talking about different things, because the industry hasn’t settled on a common definition. See, for instance, the back and forth about the audience numbers Yahoo put out yesterday for its streaming NFL game.

Marchese’s main point, though, runs counter to the new conventional wisdom among the digerati, which is that the new video platforms are now bigger than olde-tyme TV (and so advertisers should move their money over there, pronto).

Marchese neatly illustrates this by comparing the audience for HolaSoyGerman, one of YouTube’s most popular celebrities, with the audience for last year’s World Series. While Pakman’s original post suggested that the average audience for HolaSoy’s* clips was the equivalent to baseball’s most popular games, Marchese does his own math and concludes that HSG** attracts around 1,600 viewers at any given minute, while the World Series has 14 million.

Here is a chart for people who like charts:

Marchese takes pains to point out that he’s not “a cranky TV guy trying to fight the tides of change” — the reason he’s working at Fox, by the way, is because the Murdochs bought his digital ad company last year for $200 million.

But he is hitting on a note that we’ve heard a bunch recently. Last month, for instance, ad executive Rob Norman called BS on video view numbers; ESPN and other TV networks have started to do the same. And I would expect we’ll hear more of this over the next few months.

Unrelated: It took me nearly five minutes to find this clip, so I hope you like it.

* Did we get the possessive correct here? Man. YouTube.

** Is that okay?

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.