While autoplay sound may seem like a major boon for Facebook advertisers, industry groups say they may want to tread lightly.
Facebook isn’t necessarily thought of as a video platform, yet it does provide a massive portal to video content. Facebook is aware of this, and is broadening its rollout of new video playback features on its mobile app — and notably, videos in the News Feed will now autoplay with the sound turned on by default. In addition, audio will fade in and out as you scroll past, and the company is introducing another app for TVs.
Facebook first listed the video-focused updates in a post on its Newsroom blog in February. A few weeks ago, the social media giant made good on that promise in earnest, as an increasing number of people are seeing a message that reads, “We’re always working to make Facebook a better place to watch videos. That’s why videos now play with sound on automatically. Use the volume icon on any video to make the sound right for you.”
Apparently, Facebook decided to make the change back in February because users expected to hear sound as they scrolled through their News Feed. “After testing sound on in News Feed and hearing positive feedback, we’re slowly bringing it to more people. With this update, sound fades in and out as you scroll through videos in News Feed, bringing those videos to life,” Facebook noted in a blog post.
But don’t worry — if you don’t want the sound automatically on in Facebook, you have the option of turning it off, both on the iOS and Android versions of the app. Just select the menu button and make your way over to account settings and sounds, and turn off “News Feed Start With Sound.”
Facebook’s decision will likely help it become a major player in video, encouraging people to watch more of them and allowing advertisers to more easily reach people. But advertisers might want to tread carefully before hitting Facebook users with lots of loud videos on the popular social media network. According to the Coalition For Better Ads, an industry group seeking to push less annoying advertisements, videos with autoplay sound are among the least popular ad formats around.
“This ad experience is especially disruptive because it catches the reader off guard and often compels them to quickly close the window or tab in order to stop the sound — especially if they are on their mobile device and in a public place, where such noise can be a public nuisance and personal embarrassment,” the group said in its report on a recent survey.
A more welcome addition might be the larger preview for vertically formatted videos. Facebook notes it has been testing this layout for some accounts as well, and soon it will roll out to all iOS and Android users. The new viewing experience also sports a smoother animation to scale to full-screen more seamlessly, as well as a redesigned progress bar with thumbnails to make navigating videos much more convenient.
Finally, Facebook is adding watch-and-scroll functionality similar to what Google implemented quite a while ago in its YouTube app. Users can now minimize video to a picture-and-picture view while continuing to browse their News Feed. On Android, videos even continue to play outside of the app — similar to how the social network’s Chat Heads messaging feature operates.
In addition to the update for mobile, Facebook also announced it is making the move to bigger screens with a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV. The new app allows for easy viewing of videos shared by pages and friends, and also recommends content based on interest. It expands upon a feature the social network rolled out last fall, which introduced the ability to stream videos straight to a TV from any device. Facebook says it is working to bring the app to additional platforms in the future.