Facebook switches on autoplay audio

Three years after it began auto-playing ads in its news feed, the social media giant will now add sound into the mix.
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As mobile video rises in popularity for brands and advertisers, Facebook has rolled out another set of updates to video on the platform, including autoplay for audio and options for TV viewing.

Facebook videos have been auto-playing in news feeds since 2014, but until now have not included an audio layer unless it was activated with a user click. Now, Facebook will add audio to these auto-played videos for any device that has its sound turned on, with sound fading in and out as the video is scrolled by.

Audio will not play automatically on muted devices and the audio feature can be disabled altogether in the app settings. Later this year clients will be able to buy Facebook ads using sound as a buying option.

“As people watch more video on phones, they’ve come to expect sound,” wrote Facebook’s product manager Dana Sittler and its engineering manager Alex Li in a blog post on the autoplay audio announcement. They added that the update was tested with positive feedback.

Outside of Facebook the response to autoplay videos isn’t always positive — a December 2016 study by Quartz found that autoplay video ads are the least effective digital ad format, with 28% of respondents saying that they felt auto-played ads to be the least influential (followed by interstitial ads at 22% and banner ads at 19%).

In addition to the audio announcement, Facebook will also introduce a proprietary video app for connected TVs. The app will roll out in the coming months on app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV. The app will allow viewers to stream videos directly on their television screen, with a curated home screen based on pages the user follow and top-trending videos.

Facebook is also adding a larger preview of vertical-oriented videos in the news feed on mobile, allowing the videos to fill the screen more rather than appearing cropped or shrunk in the preview. The move comes as vertical video becomes more of a mainstay in digital media — last year, digital marketing agency Media Science completed a test of digital ads and found that people watching vertical units were more likely to spend time watching the advertisements on their screen.

Finally, the company will roll out an option for a user to minimize the video they are watching and allow it to continue playing in the corner of their screen as they scroll. The feature is similar to that introduced by Tumblr on its desktop platform in 2015.

Android users have the added feature of being able to keep the minimized video playing after they close the Facebook app.

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