It's been a tough week for Facebook (FB) . First, the social media giant came under fire for the fake news that flooded the site during the 2016 election cycle. Now, Facebook has announced that it found some errors in its advertising metrics -- for the second time in the past few months.
Facebook said on Wednesday that it had uncovered several "bugs" which miscalculated the weekly and monthly page reach for marketers' posts and how many times users viewed videos from start to finish. The company has also been overestimating the average time viewers spent on "instant articles," as well as exaggerating a metric called "referrals" which evaluates posts produced via an app or website.
This comes on the heels of a previous announcement in September which revealed that the Menlo Park, CA company had been inflating its video view metrics by factoring in all video views or three seconds or more. This miscalculated the average duration a video was viewed, with ad-buying firm Publicis Media estimating that viewing time was exaggerated by between 60% and 80%.
None of these miscalculations, including that announced in September, have affected advertisers' billing, Facebook said.
Pivotal Research Senior Analyst Brian Wieser said that many advertisers are "quite angry" with Facebook, even though billing wasn't impacted.
"This is not good for Facebook. The first instance of metrics miscalculation was bad, but manageable," Wieser said. "This is just more of the same, but compounded with the fake news problem, it makes advertisers question Facebook and just generally makes the environment less appealing."
Advertising partnerships are integral to Facebook, as ad revenue is the lion's share of the company's total revenues. For the third quarter of 2016, advertising revenues jumped 59% year-over-year to $6.82 billion, while total revenues were $7.01 billion.
Brad Love, associate professor at University of Texas at Austin's Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, is more optimistic about the company, however. "The company's ability to manage data, offer precise audiences and measure outcomes makes their advertising platform valuable and special in the digital space," he said over email.
"It'd be reasonable to expect that this new round of issues would impact relationships with advertisers, but it might not be in a negative [way]," Love said. "[Facebook] seems to be so engaged in apologizing and fostering relationships that it is also an opportunity for them to improve."
Facebook, for its part, is seizing this chance to improve its advertising solutions. VP of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook will be "doubling down on [its] efforts at third-party verification."
Using outside firms to evaluate its metrics, Facebook hopes, will show partners that the company's advertising platforms can legitimately help boost growth.
"Our goal going forward is to communicate more regularly about our metrics, so that our partners can focus on doing what they do best -- serving their customers -- with the best insights possible," Facebook said in a company statement.
Randall Rothenberg, CEO of advertising business trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau, noted that the changes implemented on Wednesday are a net positive for Facebook. "Marketers have always required two things from their advertising, impact and replicability; transparency into and trust in metrics are essential for achieving both goals," Rothenberg said via email.
"By providing greater insights into its measurement processes, offering a more open dialogue with its customers, and participating in third-party verification, Facebook is helping the entire marketing-media ecosystem prove our value," he added.
But advertising agency Fred & Associates CEO Jen Brady was less sanguine. "When digital metrics are inaccurate, it creates less faith from brands in the accuracy of the data as an entire medium," she said over email.
"Brands see Facebook as an 'easy' way to not have to spend too much but to gain massive exposure (even though the data points may be incorrect)," Brady continued. "Agencies will be forced to re-examine how they evaluate success for clients and will also need to spend more time to educate clients about the validity of data points."
Monique Lemus, group director at media agency Media Kitchen, echoed the sentiment that advertisers will have to be more vigilant going forward when evaluating metrics from Facebook. "But in the end, there aren't other platforms offering what Facebook's offering," Lemus noted.
Pivotal's Wieser noted, though, that Facebook's woes could benefit technology company Alphabet (GOOGL) . "For advertisers, if you have any discretion as to where you'll be putting your business for the rest of the year, Google will be chasing after that business and largely chasing successfully," he said.
"It's possible that something like this could happen again, which would be really terrible for them. Even now there will be the question about whether the data [advertisers are] getting from Facebook is good," Wieser noted. "Trust is really hard to gain back."
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.