In Prelude to Ads, Facebook Tests Video Posts That Play Automatically

Small Group of U.S. Android Users Will See Autoplay Video from Other Users and Celebrities

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Facebook isn't ready to unveil the video ads that it has been telling marketers about for more than a year. But it's launching a test to determine the impact of video in user news feeds.

Starting tomorrow, a small group of U.S. Android users will be able to see video that automatically plays in the news feed when they scroll past it. There's another big similarity to the setup of the long-awaited video ads, which were recently delayed again from their intended October debut. Users need to click on the video to activate audio and make it pop out from the news feed and expand if they flip their phones horizontally.

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But there are some differences from the upcoming video ads. For example, videos posted to brand pages won't play automatically, even for users who voluntarily follow the brand. And if a marketer buys a video page-post ad to show up in news feeds, it will still be click-to-play as it is now.

Only videos by other users and celebrities, bands and musicians with verified pages with a blue check mark will automatically play in news feed and on profile pages for people in the test group.

With the test, Facebook can capture more data to perfect the user experience of video ads by observing how people interact with a non-commercial version of them. Facebook has been seeking between $1 million and roughly $2.4 million for video ads and had intended as of this summer to make available them for Black Friday and the holiday retail season.

While advertisers had committed for the October launch, many were bucking at the price as well as the notion of being among the first to try an unproven product that may rattle users if they think it's too obtrusive.

Facebook hasn't given a time frame for whether similar tests will be conducted for iOS and desktop users.

Embedded links from YouTube and Vimeo won't automatically play, but video from apps like SocialCam, Cinemagram, Snapshot and Camera Awesome that directly upload to Facebook will, as well as Instagram video that's cross-posted to Facebook.

And user videos won't be capped at 15 seconds like marketers' ads will be. They'll be cut off at 20 minutes, which is the case with Facebook's existing click-to-play video.

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