Back in October, BuzzFeed reported that it had crossed five billion monthly content views—a number that encompassed not just BuzzFeed's site and apps, but also the swaths of content it publishes directly to social platforms like Snapchat and Facebook. This inevitably led to questions about how to measure a "content view" and what that means compared to more traditional web audience measurements, such as page views and unique visitors.
In a post on Thursday, BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen explained the key metrics being tracked by her team, and how the company's data has changed since moving to its distributed publishing strategy a year ago.
Our CEO, Jonah Peretti, started talking about BuzzFeed’s distributed strategy to internal teams in January 2015. Instead of focusing primarily on our website and apps, and using social networks as a way to send traffic to them, we were going to aggressively publish our content directly to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat. This meant that our daily, weekly, and monthly traffic reports tracking UVs and page views were obsolete. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook don’t regularly provide UVs [unique visitors] to publishers, so we needed a new set of data to measure the overall reach and impact of the company.
Figuring out how best to measure your reach is no easy feat in the current media landscape. And Nguyen detailed the ways comScore, which is a key source of data and analytics for advertisers, is no longer offering most accurate measurements of a publisher's audience. "We estimate that our current comScore metric of about 80 million UVs represents less than one-fifth of our actual global reach, based on ad hoc data provided by partners," Nguyen said in her post.
BuzzFeed has opted to measure its audience with "content views," a platform-agnostic metric that includes all views of BuzzFeed content, regardless of whether it's on Facebook or BuzzFeed's apps. The following graph indicates that BuzzFeed is already bringing in significantly more than the five billion content views it reported in the fall:
But views are measured differently from platform to platform, which makes it difficult to pinpoint how engaging BuzzFeed's content actually is. A more meaningful metric revealed in Nguyen's post is that BuzzFeed's audience spends more than 100 million hours each month consuming its content:
She also surfaced data showing that the relationship between content views and hours spent vary greatly depending on the platform. A BuzzFeed video on Facebook that autoplays in your news feed for three seconds would count toward a content view, even if you didn't spend the time to actually watch it. YouTube videos, by comparison, get fewer views but a much higher rate of engagement per viewing—which means people are likely watching those videos rather than simply scrolling past them.
Less than an hour after Nguyen published her data, Facebook announced an update to the breadth of video measurements offered through its Page Insights dashboard. Topping the list of new metrics: Minutes Viewed, "one of the most requested video metrics from publishers," writes product manager Anaid Gomez-Ortigoza in the post.
Read our cover story on BuzzFeed, which topped our list of Most Innovative Companies this year.