SAN FRANCISCO: After years of resisting pre-roll ads on its site, Facebook has announced that it will now allow them, although they will not appear in the news feed where Facebook users spend most of their time.

Instead, the social network will begin testing six-second pre-roll ads on its Watch hub in early 2018 with the aim of establishing what works best for different audiences.

“Next year, we will begin testing pre-roll ads in places where people proactively seek out content, like Watch,” Facebook said in a company blog post.

“While pre-roll ads don’t work well in News Feed, we think they will work well in Watch because it’s a place where people visit and come back to with the intention to watch videos.”

The change of policy, while still at a trial stage, is likely to please publishers and advertisers who want to ensure they get paid for their content.

But they may also find themselves disappointed by other changes Facebook intends to introduce, such as how videos are prioritised in news feed and a new requirement for videos to be longer before they are eligible for a mid-roll ad.

“We are updating News Feed ranking to improve distribution of videos from publishers and creators that people actively want to watch. With this update, we will show more videos in News Feed that people seek out or return to watch from the same publisher or creator week after week,” the blog post read.

Turning to the length of videos and their eligibility for mid-roll ads, or “Ad Breaks” as Facebook describes them, videos will need to last at least three minutes, with the first Ad Break served no earlier than the first minute.

Previously, videos were eligible for Ad Breaks if they were a minimum of 90 seconds, with the first Ad Break able to run at 20 seconds.

“Our consumer research showed that moving from 90-second to three minute videos with Ad Breaks improved overall satisfaction. Furthermore, across initial testing, satisfaction increased 18% when we delayed the first Ad Break placement,” Facebook said of the change.

Commenting on the implications for publishers, Josh Constine of TechCrunch wrote: “Before, these publishers just had to make entertaining video, and Facebook paid.

“Now, those videos must jam in sponsored content, or hold people’s attention for at least a minute before they can show an ad break. We could see video staff layoffs at publishers as a result.”

Sourced from Facebook, TechCrunch; additional content by WARC staff