Facebook's recently announced move to begin paying video creators a cut of its video ad revenue is clearly a step designed to bulk up the social network's video content and associated revenue.
But while the company has checked off all the right boxes on paper, here are three things Facebook needs to focus on while executing this strategy for it to have any hope of emerging from YouTube's prodigious shadow.
Focus on the community
The YouTube and Facebook communities are two very different beasts. YouTube has fostered a very strong, grass-roots level creator community where collaboration is imperative. Facebook meanwhile is a programmed experience where users largely view what is presented to them in their feed. The new "suggested videos" approach will force Facebook a bit out of its comfort zone in that regard, yet still maintain a curated/programmed feel.
The key to Facebook's success is to embrace these key differences and not try to hide them -- to deliver videos based on the user's likelihood of wanting them rather than the brand's desire to get in front of viewers. In short, it needs to be an authentic, native experience.
Embrace in-stream video ads
In-stream video advertising (i.e. pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll) is the predominant way video ads are sold, but Facebook continues to avoid them. In-feed ads are nice and certainly appease the Facebook user group, but it seems like a short-term stunt to get around using pre-roll ads. It is going to be difficult to split proceeds between video creators. Splitting in-feed video ad revenue between multiple creators means each creator gets less, and will likely be unsustainable in the long term.
Certain content creators will drive more engagement than others, and will argue they should get a larger cut. Also, video creators need to know the revenue associated with a single piece of content. Content they have to license is not as lucrative as content they own the rights to. Splitting ad revenue across multiple providers could get complicated at best from an ROI perspective. Eventually, Facebook will need to offer pre-roll since this is how most large publishers sell video advertising now and presumably will in the future.
Control the content
Content owners are already chafing at seeing their videos posted to Facebook by users lacking the required permissions. YouTube's Content ID system allows rights holders to block or tag content they wish to monetize when it's uploaded by any given user. Facebook doesn't have that level of control filters yet, and will need to do so before expanding its video strategy.
Ultimately, Facebook's angle is to motivate video creators to post more videos to its network. It doesn't need to position itself as the anti-YouTube to do this. There need not be an "us or them" approach. Rather, it's just another sign of the multi-platform world of video we're seeing evolve right before our eyes.