Facebook Is Changing How It Ranks Videos in the News Feed

Longer content is poised for a boost

Facebook announced today that it’s changing how it ranks videos that appear in the News Feed. The social network will favor longer videos with high percent-completion rates over short-form content and long-form videos that people don’t spend much time viewing.

In a blog post explaining the updates, product manager Abhishek Bapna and research scientist Seyoung Park said long videos that viewers come close to completing could see a “slight increase in distribution.” At the same time, they said shorter videos might see a “slight dip” in the overall number of users who see them.

"The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people"
-Facebook product manager Abhishek Bapna and research scientist Seyoung Park

Bapna and Park said longer videos require more commitment from viewers, so completion stats can tell Facebook how “compelling” a post really is.

“As we continue to understand how our community consumes video, we’ve realized that we should therefore weight percent completion more heavily the longer a video is, to avoid penalizing longer videos,” they wrote.

The two suggested brands and media companies focus on creating videos that are relevant and engaging, rather than simply going long for the sake of length. And they didn’t specify what constitutes a long video.

“The best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling,” they wrote.

The changes—which will roll out gradually in the coming weeks—follow a familiar trend of Facebook tweaking its algorithm based on what it’s pushing and what people are watching. In 2015, it shifted weight to videos that prompted people to take actions like turning on sound or watching in full-screen mode. Last year, it gave more preference to Pages that used live video.

Facebook has sought to maintain the trust of advertisers since last fall, when it revealed that a video metric for marketers had been miscalculated and inflated by as much as 80 percent over a two-year period. Some of the company’s top executives have said that while the metric was “minor,” the error was a lesson in how to be transparent with the way data is calculated and communicated.