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Strategic analysis
Human Analytics, Please! When A View Is Not A View

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Written by on April 16, 2015

It is well known in the digital world that we have a huge problem with how things are measured, and the view metric is on the top of that list. A view is never a real view, and often it is highly misleading.

Part of the reason is due to technical limitations, or old ways of doing things, but it's because of personal vanity and a temptation to mislead about the real numbers to sell more ad space. But, no matter the reason, we need to fix it.

We need human metrics, not database metrics

The fundamental problem with the view metric is that it isn't defined in human terms. Instead, it's a technical metric that only makes sense if you are a IT guy.

Let me give you a simple example. If I ask you, "how many views did your video get last week?" , what I meant wasn't how many times the video was requested from the server. That number is irrelevant. I meant was, "how many people watched it?"

Giving me a view as the mathematical total of how many times the video was served from the server, isn't a real view. I don't care what the tech is doing or how it works.

I'm talking about people actually viewing the video.

So, when sites like Facebook counts a video view as "videos auto-playing 3 seconds or longer", that has nothing to do with views. That is purely a technical number, made up by tech people who don't think like you and me.

Only the people who actually watch your video are influenced. If people didn't watch the video, you didn't influence them.

I don't care how your analytics system measured it. I don't care if you algorithms determined that it was a view. A real view is something a real person is doing, in a way that indicates real impact. It's not how many times something started playing.

Of course, Facebook, isn't the only site that is reporting views this badly. Every site is doing it. YouTube does it too, although in a different way.

YouTube has a long history of validating their views. They have put a tremendous effort into combating fake views (spam plus automated). And they are also heavily focusing on only counting views with the right intent. So, autoplaying videos, for instance, aren't counted as views, because there is no intent. Neither are views from 3rd party sources (e.g. via the YouTube API), because YouTube has no way of determining if it's real or not.

Here is how YouTube puts it when I asked:

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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