Widely Viewed Content Report: Companion Guide

UPDATED

NOV 9, 2021

Introduction

This guide is a companion to our Widely Viewed Content Report, intended to provide additional context about the report and help people interpret its contents.

Scope of the Report’s Data

The Widely Viewed Content Report provides a quarterly overview of the content that reaches the most people on Facebook’s News Feed in the United States. At the start of each report we indicate the data segment it will cover. To date, our Widely Viewed Content Reports:

  • cover one fiscal quarter

  • include data from viewers in the US only

  • include the top 20 most widely viewed domains, links, Pages and posts in News Feed

  • exclude ads

  • include content recommended by Facebook within News Feed units like Suggested For You

All of the insights, statistics and content contained in the report pertain only to this data segment.

There were a variety of considerations that went into choosing the data for this report, such as user privacy, data accuracy, and operational feasibility, among others. The report scope you see today is a product of balancing these considerations with an ambition to provide even more transparency over time. We expect future editions of this report will expand.

Content View & Viewer Data

We use content 'views' and 'viewers' as the primary metric in the Widely Viewed Content Report. A content view is registered when a piece of content appears on someone’s News Feed, meaning it covers at least half of the screen on a phone, computer, or tablet, and was viewed for at least a quarter of a second. Content viewers refers to the number of people (as measured by the number of unique Facebook accounts) who have viewed a piece of content.

We have chosen to highlight view and viewer data in this report because we want to provide greater clarity into what content is most popular on Facebook in the aggregate, beyond an individual’s News Feed experience. Data in CrowdTangle tells part of that story, but as the report shows, our most widely viewed and most widely engagement content are different so we believe this different view is important. There are millions of posts that people view on Facebook that CrowdTangle was not intended to account for, such as content from private Pages. View and viewer data is a helpful complement to the data that is already available to provide more transparency into what content is most popular on Facebook.

Data Methodology

Total views calculation

The total number of views used to calculate the percentage of content views on Facebook is based on the number of content views in News Feed from viewers in the US, and excludes views on ads.

Typical News Feed composition calculation

This section breaks out the percentage of each content category on News Feed -- specifically posts from friends and people followed, posts from Groups joined, posts from Pages followed, unconnected posts and other. These categories can overlap as, for example, your friends can also post in Groups. For simplicity in the report, the Widely Viewed Content Report buckets content based on the first category it falls into, in this order from most common to least:

  • recommended content

  • posts from friends and people followed

  • posts from Pages followed

  • Groups joined

  • unconnected posts

  • other, which is content that cannot be bucketed in these categories (e.g., Events)

Links

In the Widely Viewed Content Report, when we use the term ‘link’ we refer to a web address that leads to a specific webpage. Note that all links must contain a domain, but sometimes links are just the domain itself. For example, "facebook.com" is a link to Facebook's homepage as well as its domain. For this reason it may appear that domains are included in the link section of the report, when in fact these are links that contain only domains.

Links appear in various locations in posts. For the purposes of this report, we count link views in posts, but not in comments. This means we count a link view when someone sees a link in a post’s text or its preview, but do not count views of links in comments. If a person viewed a link in the text of a post, but the link didn’t render a preview, we still count it as a link view. If a link did render a preview we count it as a link view. We chose this approach because it’s the most accurate picture of the links people are viewing on Facebook. In some cases we’ve had to extract the links from text in order to produce this data set.

While we've optimized for completeness with links in the report, it's also important the data is as meaningful as possible. These are the inclusions/exclusions principles we’ve implemented for links:

Inclusion Principle(s)Exclusion Principle(s)

Links, whether they rendered a preview or not, are included in the report.

Emails and email logins are excluded.

Links from Facebook-owned domains (such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.) are excluded.

Link shorteners such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com are excluded.

Domains

In the Widely Viewed Content Report, when we use the term ‘domain’ we refer to the domain name of a website. A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website. For example, the domain name of Facebook is "facebook.com."

To produce the list of domains shared in the report, we start with links that people viewed and then identify their domains. Since domains are based on links, the exclusions/inclusions that are applied to links will also be applied for domains. Also note that today, if our systems think a subdomain, such as "m.facebook.com," is different from its domain, i.e., "facebook.com," the reach we compute for the two will be independent— the subdomain’s reach will not be included in the domain’s reach. This is an area where we are exploring data methodology changes. These are the inclusion/exclusion principles for domains:

Inclusion Principle(s)Exclusion Principle(s)

Domains from links that follow our link inclusion principles.

Emails and email logins are excluded.

Links from Facebook-owned domains (such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.) are excluded.

Link shorteners such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com are excluded.

Posts

In the Widely Viewed Content Report, when we use the term ‘post’ we refer to the foundational unit of News Feed. Posts can have different formats and can contain videos, images, links, or plain text. All posts that are viewed in News Feeds are accounted for in the report, and for reshares, we attribute both views and viewers to the original post (i.e. the root of the reshare chain). We currently do not apply any exclusions to Posts. These are the inclusion/exclusion principles for posts:

Inclusion Principle(s)Exclusion Principle(s)

All connected and unconnected posts that are live on Facebook can be included in the report.

Data is not excluded, but posts will not render if the content owner changes post privacy, FB takes down the post, the content owner deletes the post, or if the account is disabled by either the owner or Facebook.

Pages

In the Widely Viewed Content Report, when we use the term 'Page' we refer to public Pages created by businesses, brands, celebrities, creators, media outlets and more. All Pages that are viewed in News Feed are accounted for in the report. When a piece of content from a Page is reshared, we attribute both content views and viewers to the original Page (i.e. the root of the reshare chain). We currently do not apply any exclusions to Pages. These are the inclusion/exclusion principles for Pages:

Inclusion Principle(s)Exclusion Principle(s)

All Pages that are publicly available on Facebook can be included in the report.

None

How we evaluate and improve our metrics

Facebook conducts a detailed internal review of data shared in our report to validate our metrics, and has established rigorous standards that govern how we identify, correct, and publicly report any adjustments to previously released data. We also conduct a number of periodic checks to verify the accuracy of our data and identify significant errors. Currently, the report has not undergone analysis or input from external parties. We are considering how to establish external validation for the future reports. As with all aspects of our Widely Viewed Content Report, we will continue to evolve and improve our review processes over time.

Considerations

The accuracy of our data and measurements is our top priority, so how we define and measure views may change as we improve our methodologies; consequently, historical comparisons may be imperfect. We recognize that trends are important, so we’ll include comparisons to previous reports where possible as the Widely Viewed Content Report matures. All numbers in the report are rounded, and due to rounding, some totals included in the report may not equal the sum of the separate figures.

Note that the data that is included in this report includes views from both public and private content. In any given quarter, the report may include posts or Pages that have been subsequently taken down by the original content creator or by Facebook, posts or Pages that have been subsequently made non-Public, or links/domains that no longer exist. In these situations, for privacy reasons we won’t display the original content, but will instead leave a placeholder and designate whether it was a Facebook or user-initiated change. For more information, see our Data Policy.

Overview of News Feed

What gets prioritized in News Feed

News Feed can connect you to who and what matters most: your people, your interests, and your world together in one place. Our goal is to make sure you see the posts that are most valuable to you at the top of your News Feed every time you open the Facebook app — and because most people have more content in their News Feed than they could reasonably browse in one session, we use algorithms to determine the order of the posts you see. The friends you connect with, Groups you join, Pages you follow, comments you make, and responses you leave on surveys are indicators of what content you may find meaningful, and the algorithms predict what you are likely to find most valuable based on your activity and direct feedback. For example, if it’s content from your friends or family, if you’ve indicated that it’s worth your time, or if it’s likely to foster a meaningful interaction, then the algorithm increases the post’s relevance score, which typically results in the content appearing closer to the top of your News Feed. You can read more about our approach to ranking here.

What gets reduced distribution in News Feed

There are some kinds of posts that people have told us they don’t want to see, or that are broadly understood to be harmful. We remove content from Facebook altogether when it violates our Community Standards and poses a real risk of harm, like graphic violence, hate speech, or fake COVID cures. We also use News Feed ranking to reduce distribution of posts that may contain content that people find objectionable, but which doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of removal under the Community Standards. Our Content Distribution Guidelines go into detail about the types of content that receive reduced distribution, and explain why we've decided to reduce distribution for each particular type of content. In any given quarter, some of the top 20 lists may contain lower-quality content; we're always working to improve our automated detection systems to better identify and reduce the distribution of these kinds of items in News Feed. You can find more about our Content Distribution Guidelines here.

If you want to learn more about News Feed, here are some additional resources:

Glossary

Content View

is what is counted whenever a piece of content appears in News Feed. If there are multiple pieces of content in a post, the view is assigned to the post.

Content Viewer

is an account who viewed a piece of content on News Feed. This metric is estimated.

Domain

refers to the name of a website. A domain name is a unique name that identifies a website. For example, the domain name of Facebook is "facebook.com."

Subdomain

refers to a domain that is part of a larger domain. For example, Facebook’s mobile site "m.facebook.com" is a subdomain of "facebook.com."

Link

refers to a web address that leads to a specific webpage. Note that all links must contain a domain, but sometimes links are just the domain itself. For example, "facebook.com" is Facebook's homepage as well as its domain. For this reason it may appear that domains are included in the link section of the report, when in fact these are links that contain only domains.

News Feed

is the constantly updating list of posts in the middle of a user’s home page which includes status updates, photos, videos, links, app activity and interactions from people, Pages and Groups.

Organic Content

refers to any post that is not an advertisement. If content received views both as organic content and as an ad, we will count the organic view but not the views on the ad.

Page

refers to public Pages created by businesses, brands, celebrities, creators, media outlets and more.

Posts with a link

is any post that has an external link included in it.

Connected Content

refers to content from people someone has added as a friend, Groups they have joined, or Pages they have followed.

Unconnected Content

refers to content in someone’s News Feed Content that did not come from friends, Pages people followed, or Groups that they were a part of. "Suggested For You” posts in News Feed are an example of unconnected content.

Ads

refers to content that gained some or all of its distribution using one of Facebook’s advertising tools.