You can't trust news on Facebook – and (once again) you can't trust its web ad metrics
Another recount in America: Cockup sends publishers back to their abacuses
Amid its efforts to get out of the business of fake news distribution and to identify the fake accounts said to represent 2 per cent of its 1.79 billion monthly active users, Facebook for the fourth time in recent months is correcting erroneous advertising metrics.
In a December 16 update to a December 9 post declaring that it would revise the inaccurate methods used to calculate its Estimated Reach, Streaming Reactions, and Graph API traffic figures, Facebook on Friday said it had discovered reporting errors related to the way metrics partner comScore measured Instant Articles traffic for a small group of publishers.
Instant Articles is a Facebook program that allows publishers to distribute content through Facebook and to either sell their own ads, keeping all revenue, or to outsource ad selling to Facebook for an unpublished share of revenue.
Facebook said the measurement problem led to the underreporting of iPhone traffic from Facebook in comScore products during the period between September 20 and November 30 this year.
The social media giant said it has fixed the issue and is working with comScore to provide affected publishing partners with accurate data. To explain the snafu, the company said its legacy comScore integration has trouble handling HTTPS connections.
A company spokesperson told The Register that the misreporting didn't affect billable metrics, but declined to elaborate on what caused the reporting flaw.
The Washington Post, which publishes content through Instant Articles, on Friday said its visitor numbers provided by comScore "were significantly underreported" in September, October, and November, owing to the issue identified by Facebook. The publication said it expected its November unique visitor figure, 99.1 million, to be "comfortably across the 100 million unique visitor mark" once comScore corrects its figures.
A spokesperson for The Washington Post declined to go into further detail.
Over the summer, Facebook acknowledged in a Help Center article that it had been miscalculating video viewership. The Wall Street Journal took note in September when it reported on a letter sent by ad buying agency Publicis Media to clients about Facebook's trouble with figures. And David Fischer, Facebook VP of advertising and global operations, apologized.
Then in November, Facebook said it was revising its metrics "to give our partners and the industry more clarity and confidence about the insights we provide."
Facebook's numeracy research remains ongoing. ®