YouTube has been nervous for a while about Facebook’s development of native video. Recently, that long-simmering conflict came to a boil when YouTube creator Hank Green published an article on Medium that accused Facebook of basing its view metrics on “cheating, lies, and theft.” (Facebook refuted the third allegation, although it notably did not deny the first two.) By “lies,” Green is referring to Facebook’s method of counting views, which differs sharply from YouTube’s. The social platform records a view after three seconds, while YouTube views register after 30 seconds. Green argues that this method counts views “before people could be said to be watching the video.”

Views are the number-one metric of online video, determining the flow of advertising dollars, so their measurement is worth scrutiny — for brands as well as for individual creators. However, L2’s just-released video report suggests that the disparity ultimately matters less than one might think. While Facebook videos initially enjoy a rapid burst of popularity, YouTube videos catch up in the long term.

The study shows that videos can achieve astonishingly quick scale on Facebook: one video posted by Chanel recorded more than 10,000 views within one hour of posting. But that scale is fleeting. Three days after posting, most videos garner 90% fewer hourly views than they received one day after posting.

Facebook views over one week

In contrast, YouTube videos become popular gradually as users discover them through Google and YouTube’s own search results. The average YouTube video takes 62 days to reach 91% of views.

Budweiser’s enormously popular “Lost Dog” Super Bowl ad provides an example of how the gap between the two platforms slowly closes. The ad recorded 18 times more views on Facebook than YouTube on the day it was posted online. Three days after the Super Bowl, however, the ad had only 1.2 times more views on Facebook. By June, the gap was completely narrowed. Views on YouTube were increasing, while Facebook growth had come to a halt.

Video views of Budweiser ad

The Budweiser ad indicates that each platform has distinct merits for branded content. Facebook provides a rapid boost of popularity and also reaches a wide audience with its interruptive viewing format. While YouTube can also achieve rapid short-term scale with advertising, the platform is better positioned for content discovery. As Instagram opens up to advertising, many brands are also experimenting with the platform to showcase short-form, highly visual content.

 For more, download a copy of L2’s Intelligence Report: Video. [reportdownloadlinks report_post_id=”121798″]

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