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Facebook Videos Are Killing YouTube In One Key Metric

A sappy Christmas ad starring a penguin is steamrolling its way across Facebook.

Facebook Videos Are Killing YouTube In One Key Metric
[Photo: Flickr user Houston, i am the problem.]

The holiday season doesn’t officially kick off until the sappy, heartwarming ads start sledding in, which is why, every year, U.K. retailer John Lewis pulls out all the stops with its Christmas commercials, which are meticulously designed to make you shed a tear or two. This year’s stars a pengwing.

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When the video was released Thursday morning, it became a monster hit online. (As things tend to go in the sadvertising biz!) Only unlike years past, the dominant viewing platform wasn’t YouTube; it was Facebook. Business Insider reports that Facebook “has stolen 40% of the online audience for the video, which would previously have belonged entirely to YouTube.”

Twenty-four hours after it went live, the video had been shared 156,063 times on Facebook, while the YouTube video had only been shared 46,890 times on Facebook. (That said, the YouTube video above still has more plays overall: 4.1 million versus FB’s 2.8 million.)

As a few smart people have observed recently, shares have come to trump the lowly pageview as the favored success metric of today’s publishing landscape. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Facebook video has more shares on, well, Facebook.

But it’s worth considering what changed inside the social network this year. It’s a doozy. As my colleague Rebecca Greenfield wrote a few months ago, part of the viral success of the ALS Ice Bucket challenge was due to a small Facebook design tweak to its video platform: Facebook’s videos now autoplay in the news feed. Although Facebook videos are muted at first, they are designed to pique your curiosity mid-scroll, eventually absorbing your full attention, and— ta-da!—suddenly, inexplicably, you just watched the whole thing. Then you click share.

Facebook is still the dominant ecosystem where the bulk of online content gets shared, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. As the social network continues to co-opt other media formats to keep you inside of Facebook’s confines, it will be interesting to see how or if YouTube and other sites shift their strategies.

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About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more

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