Media & Entertainment

Facebook overhauls ad metrics, admits 4 bugs and errors led to misreported numbers

Comment

Facebook has been posting big gains on the back of advertising this year, but it looks like not all is well in the world of ad metrics on the social network. Today the social network admitted that it has discovered some bugs and errors in its system that have led to misreporting numbers across four products, including Instant Articles, video and Page Insights.

While coming clean on the bugs and errors, Facebook also said that it was putting several new measures into place both to fix those and bring in outside groups to provide more measurement to advertising and other clients, including the creation of a Measurement Council and more third-party verification.

The news is coming out at a key time for the company. Facebook has already been coming under pressure over accusations that it influenced the U.S. election by showing people too much “fake news” — posts created to look like factual content that were in fact made specifically to skew opinion and drive more clicks. And it had already admitted a miscalculation in September led to over-inflated video views. Shares of Facebook were down nearly three percent in pre-market trading. We’ll continue to monitor this to see whether there is a bigger effect.

The news that Facebook released today is comprised of two parts: the changes it’s putting in place, and the disclosure of the problems.

Facebook said that it uncovered bugs and other reporting errors in four products: Page Insights, its video product, Instant Articles and referrals in Analytics for Apps. For context, there are 220 metrics that Facebook counts across its platform.

It notes that one of its Pages dashboards, the summary number for 7-day or 28-day organic page reach, was miscalculated as a simple sum of daily reach instead of de-duplicating repeat visitors over those periods. It also notes that “the vast majority of reach data in the Page Insights dashboard was unaffected, including all the graphs, daily and historical reach, per-post reach, exported and API reach data, and all data on the Reach tab.” It says that the de-duplicated 7-day summary in the overview dashboard will be 33 percent lower on average and 28-day will be 55 percent lower and this bug has been live since May and will be fixed in the next few weeks. It does not affect paid reach, it added. The error area is marked here in red:

insights-bug

It also said that it had been undercounting metrics for completed, or 100 percent, video views — because sometimes the audio plays out longer than the video does. It notes that this could mean up to a 35 percent increase in video watches at 100 percent.

Meanwhile, Facebook said it had made a calculation error in Instant Articles, over-reporting by between 7 percent and 8 percent since August of 2015. “We were calculating the average across a histogram of time spent, instead of reflecting the total time spent reading an article divided by its total views. We have now fixed this issue,” Facebook said.

Lastly, Facebook said that it had been miscalculating Referrals in Analytics for Apps by about 6 percent for the most frequent users: it was counting clicks that went directly to apps and websites, but also clicks on posts via apps and websites, including clicks to view media. Other referral measurements were unaffected it said.

New measurement initiatives

While four problems in a pool of 220 may not seem like a lot, it’s a sign of how Facebook’s platform is getting increasingly complex. But given what a force Facebook is today in online advertising, there is also an important need for transparency and trust for those who are putting their content (and ad spend) onto the platform. And some of this is overdue, considering that Facebook has broken new ground around a whole new set of products and parameters in the digital ad market. To that end, Facebook also today announced some changes in how it’s approaching measurement.

For starters, Facebook said that it will be widening the pool of third-party companies that it works with to measure traffic and engagement on its platform beyond the small group that it works with today, which includes comScore, Moat, Nielsen and Integral Ad Science (IAS), in response to requests from partners for more independent measurement, specifically around time ads are viewed.

This will also include more work with existing partners, for example Nielsen, to monitor video and Facebook live content to incorporate that into their wider social media dashboard.

It said that it will also create a new Measurement Council — comprised of advertising clients and measurement companies — to look at how it will continue to evolve this going forward, part of a bigger plan to communicate more about its metrics publicly.

This will also include overhauling the language it uses to describe metrics, more clear calculations, more categorization and better definitions of what Facebook is measuring.

video-views

More to come.

 

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo