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Facebook v. Snapchat: What Counts as a Video View?

Not all video views are created equal.

Scott Barbour / Getty Images

Snapchat and Facebook are racing to rack up video views, and if you’ve watched their respective video view counts climb over the past six months, it seems as though they’re doing a pretty bang-up job.

The most recent totals: Facebook gets eight billion video views per day compared with Snapchat’s seven billion, which was reported this week by Bloomberg. Those numbers are up from four billion and two billion, respectively, last spring, and the two companies are starting to draw some comparisons.

But before you draft the bar charts, it’s worth noting that not all video views are created equal. It’s easy to compare daily totals, but each company has different criteria for what counts as a “view.” That makes it tough to discern whether Facebook or Snapchat is actually in the lead.

Here’s the way views are currently measured:

A Facebook video view is logged when a video plays for at least three seconds, a criteria that’s aided by the fact that Facebook videos autoplay in News Feed. On desktop, the video has to be 100 percent on the screen before it starts playing. On mobile, it has to be at least 50 percent on the screen. The eight billion video view total includes News Feed videos as well as videos consumed outside the News Feed, like in a private group or on a brand’s Page.

Snapchat views are measured differently. A view is counted as soon as the video is rendered on the screen — that means it could play for a half second and still count as a view. Unlike Facebook videos, which play alongside other content, Snapchat videos are always full screen. It’s one of the company’s arguments for why it doesn’t require a three-second limit (or any limit, for that matter). Snapchat’s total view count includes videos from Stories, its publisher section Discover and private messages.

So both companies have different ways to measure the same thing. Why does that matter? Because you’ll likely hear a lot more about Facebook and Snapchat and how the two companies are competing in video moving forward. (We haven’t even mentioned YouTube.) That’s important since that matters to advertisers. They’re used to buying media efficiently — that is, a whole lot of people (the right people) all at once. Mass, simultaneous audiences — you know, like TV.

Right now, that benefit to having more video views is primarily tied to getting more video content from both users and publishers. People will bring their content where it will be seen, and a healthy view count can serve as quality bait. Eventually, though, the competition between Facebook and Snapchat will be over video ad dollars, which is when these view counts and audience totals will carry a lot more meaning.

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