Publishers question Nielsen’s Facebook measurement tool, as audiences apparently swell to 14 times their original size

Nielsen’s decision to measure Facebook video has placed major publishers offside and put the measurement system in disarray, after an email revealed those who opted-in saw audiences apparently swell to more than five times their previous size.

Since its introduction in January, BuzzFeed’s reported daily reach in Australia increased from 250,000 to 3.5m, while Vice’s climbed from 55,000 to 300,000 and Popsugar’s from 30,000 to 200,000. Only three publishers opted to use this new system, which gives clients the chance to opt-in and “receive credit” for consumption of Facebook video content.

Overnight, BuzzFeed, Vice and Popsugar’s daily reach grew to 14 times, 5.45 times and 6.6 times more than its audience reach compared to the previous day.

It comes amid publisher disputes with Nielsen around the validity and quality of their measurement system, Digital Content Ratings (DCR) and its new enhancement, Facebook video secondary crediting.

As part of the Facebook Nielsen agreement, all DCR tagged video content on Facebook is eligible and counted towards a total audience number. Other video content – such as what appears on YouTube – is not yet counted.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Monique Perry, head of media at Nielsen said the decision to launch the off-platform opt-in enhancement was to meet requirements of their IAB remit, which was to “measure all platforms”.

Facebook secondary crediting allows Nielsen to “understand the audiences on Facebook” that engage with publishers’ content.

“The idea was that we needed to build a measurement platform that allowed us to add that audience back and de-duplicate it and so that is what off-platform is, and Facebook secondary crediting is one of those,” she told Mumbrella.

Nielsen’s explanation of the Facebook secondary crediting metric


Mumbrella understands small publishers and major publishers were not informed about this opt-in arrangement prior to launch.

But Perry assured Mumbrella they were informed last October: “We informed the market of the timing of the release, so being in January. We informed the IAB in a measurement council meeting and we said ‘okay, as our rollout plan of off platform, the next cab off the rank is going to be Facebook secondary crediting, and we can see that becoming available in January.”

A number of major publishers – both IAB board members and not – are also concerned about the implementation of the metric, arguing it has little value and is confusing video views and a view which can be counted simply by scrolling through a Facebook page.

Perry said the discussion is around “time engaged with the content”. She said Nielsen is currently in discussions with the Media Ratings Council (MRC) about viewing qualifiers.

“Digital content ratings is fully transparent on both those metrics. You’ll find sites that build audience and have less than a minute time per person. Then you’ll have other sites that build the same audience, but they might have an hour per person.”

In the handbook distributed to publishers, Nielsen said it could not distinguish between organic and promoted videos. Autoplay is also included as part of this Facebook secondary crediting agreement.

But another issue is Nielsen’s definition of a video view is zero seconds.

Facebook has also previously been caught in a number of disputes over measurement over the past two years, admitting to a number of errors in its metric reporting.

Nielsen’s Perry would not comment on the way in which Facebook measures a stream start.

“Facebook is not measuring in DCR. Nielsen is measuring in DCR. All of that measurement is via Nielsen and at the moment in digital content ratings, for all of that, we are measuring video starts, whether it’s on Facebook or whether it’s a publisher’s video content.

“You can certainly always look at total video starts for your total audience, but we would like research firms to start to build-in video qualifiers and that’s what we are looking at do at Nielsen, and I suspect we will work very closely with the IAB locally on what they are in this market. The current thinking is you have the video start, which is your total audience, the MRC guidelines are looking at a two-second viewing qualifier and then you might add in another one that is a 30-second qualifier,” she said.

“Nielsen won’t comment on the value of an audience or a way that a different organisation will view a metric. We have to focus on our own metric and we have to focus on metrics that are comparable across everything. At the moment we are fair. We are treating everyone fairly in video, in digital content ratings. It is all stream starts.”


Graphs sent to publishers follow the launch of the new crediting tool

However for those who opted in – like BuzzFeed – the new tool gives a “clearer view” of its reach, and is “necessary” for accurate audience measurement, the publisher claimed.

“BuzzFeed is a distributed network publishing engaging, shareable content and adapting it to the platforms where our audience lives. Much of our content is being missed by traditional measurement tools and Nielsen’s Digital Content Ratings allow us to count content views and viewers across our owned and operated properties as well as Facebook and YouTube,” a Buzzfeed spokesperson said.

Vice also weighed in on the decision: “We believe in being everywhere young Australians are with our content, so measures that capture our multi-platform audience are important to us.

“We have a large local Facebook audience that engages with our content daily, particularly our original video.”

Perry confirmed Facebook, which currently sits on the Board of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), is like every other subscription-based client.

“They are exactly the same, there is no difference.

“Everyone on the board supports the measurement, so there is no difference,” she added.

“We work with the board, we work with the 17 companies on the measurement council and they all input and sort of agree to the approach of the measurement, and then we go and implement.”

The latest qualms follow publisher confusion and frustration over a lack of measurement of Google Accelerated Media Pages, which is yet to officially launch in market. Nielsen has told Mumbrella Google AMP will be switched on this week.

Last week, Fairfax Media withdrew from Digital Content Ratings, arguing its own “digital innovation” was “far outpacing standard audience measurement metrics”. Mumbrella understands major publishers pay approximately $1m a year for the measurement service.

Perry said Nielsen still had a “good relationship with Fairfax” and would continue to work with the publisher across many areas of business.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.