UPDATE: After this post published, Periscope released a page in its Help Center titled: "How are viewership metrics calculated?" that explains how it counts video views across its service.
Twitter's Periscope has been letting users broadcast the world around them in real time since early 2015, popularizing the idea of mobile live streaming. But Periscope has never publicly defined what exactly it counts as a video view, a key metric for any tech company in the video market.
The issue was brought to light this week after several Periscope users began complaining and reaching out to the app's support about discrepancies they were seeing in the data for their live video views on recent streams.
Most notably there was an instance where the number of live viewers on one user's streams was larger than that of his total views, which is supposed to include users who watched the stream as it happened plus those who watched a recorded version later on.
"I've been trying to get them, for quite some time now to no avail, to answer these questions about how a view is being defined," said Geoff Golberg, a Periscope user with more than 34,000 followers who has been using the app numerous times per week since its launch. "It's not transparent."
Periscope addressed its view count issues in a Medium post published Thursday after Inc. began pressing on Tuesday for clarification on how a view is defined.
In the post, Periscope said that view count discrepancies came as a result of a bug found in the Twitter for Android TV app, which was released on Nov. 15. That bug caused the service to report more than one viewer per actual view. Periscope said it has stopped counting Android TV views for now as a way to remedy the situation, which only affected 0.3 percent of broadcasts, but its team has also fixed the issue and it will be corrected in an update to the Android TV app.
Additionally, the service suffered an outage over the weekend that resulted in strange viewership numbers. Periscope said it is working on improving its infrastructure to prevent those types of issues from happening again. Finally, Periscope said that there are also "a few minor edge cases" where there can be a delay in reporting accurate live viewer counts when a user watches a stream either through Periscope.tv or the Periscope Android app. Periscope is actively working to resolve those issues.
Not answered was how Periscope defines a view. A spokeswoman for Periscope told Inc. that it plans to soon publish a help page that will clearly define the metric for its users. For now, the spokeswoman offered the following as a definition:
"Live viewers watch the video while the broadcaster was live. Replay viewers watch the video once it ended," the spokeswoman said. "Viewers are counted when they tap in to watch a live video in Periscope. For autoplaying videos, viewers are counted once they've watched for three seconds."
Periscope, however, did not clearly state what exactly is an autoplaying video, although they do include streams presented in the Periscope app's Watch Tab and Global Feed. Periscope also offered contradicting information when it comes to Periscope.tv. Asked if Periscope counts someone who sees the multiple streams on the Periscope.tv home page, which begin to play automatically the moment you head to the site, the spokeswoman said Periscope.tv views are not counted until a user clicks on a specific stream.
On other services, such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and even Twitter, a view count is clearly defined. This metric is important for advertisers, which Periscope began courting earlier this year. The data is also important for frequent Periscope users, many of whom use their streams to market services and products for brands that sponsor them.
On an practical level, it is important that Periscope offer clearly defined and accurate data, as that is what "scopers" use to inform the type of content they should be streaming, said John Joseph Kevin Morris, a frequent Periscope user in Hong Kong who goes by "Jonathan JK."
"Periscope had featured a scope today from some guy in Aleppo, and I think about the consequences of someone who wants to get the word out on issues -- if they think they're talking to 400 people and they're not, that's worrying and dangerous," said Morris, who said that he noticed his live stream's view counts jump suddenly a few weeks ago, going from an average of about 50 or so viewers to more than 200.
Now, Periscope users say they are hoping the service will better communicate what defines a view and provide them with accurate analytics on their broadcasts.
"I truly want Periscope to win. I've invested an insane amount of time and insane amount of money into this app," Golberg said. "I'm really passionate about the app, but I'm incredibly frustrated."