Facebook tests a new policy and removes all the promoted posts from the news feed.
This policy came as a nightmare for publishers, who used to post their content without spending a penny.
Last week Facebook launched its second news feed called ‘Explore’. All the promoted posts would now be shifted to this secondary feed. However, the actual news feed will only include posts from friends and adverts.
This means that Facebook’s main feed would no longer be a free playing field, but a battlefield of “pay to play”.
For now, the system is only available in six countries, including Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia.
This new strategy has caused user’s engagement with Facebook pages drop dramatically, from 60% to 80% because firstly, many people don’t even know that there is now a secondary feed and secondly people who are aware are not inclined enough to check their secondary feed.
Facebook had been a platform for many incoming publishers to nourish and grow, many lucky ones had used this platform and developed a huge following.
“It’s a stark change from how media outlets have grown with Facebook. Publishers like BuzzFeed’s Tasty and NowThis grew via distributing viral posts and videos on News Feed,” wrote Zaid Ramley, former social lead at Al Jazeera English.
If this strategy is replicated more broadly, much smaller, as well as larger publishers, would suffer horribly. According to Filip Struhárik, a journalist at Slovakian newspaper Dennik N, this new policy resulted in a drop in interactions across the country’s media landscape. “Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach. The reach of several Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days,” added Struhárik.
According to stats from Facebook-owned analytics services, Crowd Tangle, about two-thirds to three-quarters of content from 60 largest Facebook pages in Slovakia disappeared overnight from Wednesday to Thursday.
For Larger sites, which have several other ways to interact with their consumers, this change would not have a huge effect, however, it’s a different story for sites which completely rely on social media.
Where users are relieved by the loss of social traffic, publishers are panicking over the same loss.
“Its hard to say now how big it will be. Problems have also hit ‘Buzfeed-like’ sites, which were more dependent on social traffic”, said Struhárik.
The Slovakian journalist also said that it is too soon to draw harsh conclusions, as its been less than a week since the trial started. “But if reach is radically smaller, interactions decreased and your site doesn’t have diversity of traffic sources, it will hurt you.”
A Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email to Mashable, “With all of the possible stories in each person’s feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful. People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from pages.”
“To understand if people like these two different spaces, we will test a few things, such as how people engage with videos and other types of posts. These tests will start in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia.”
“We have no current plans to roll this out globally,” the statement continued.
Head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri replied to Struhárik’s tweet
This image reflects a test in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia. It’s not global and there are no plans to be.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) 23 October 2017
This change will not affect the “paid promotions”, they will normally appear on your news feed along with posts from people who have been followed or friended by you.
Matti Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis, said that the move was “the classic Facebook playbook: first give lots of organic reach to one content type, then they have to pay for each, then they can only get through to anyone by paying.”
According to Littunen many ‘premium’ publishers have already adjusted themselves to the idea, and have retracted relying too much on social media. But fresh incoming companies who bring in the traffic for social media will get fatally wounded.
“The biggest hits will be to the likes of Buzzfeed, Huffington post and Business Insider, who create commoditized content aiming for the biggest reach,” Littunen continued.
Publishers who get video content for Facebook from other sites are also in danger as they would not really like paying for the videos they got from elsewhere.
“The kind of video that is doing best has been quite commoditized low-value stuff that is often lifted from elsewhere and repackaged for Facebook”
“We don’t see that bonanza going on forever, and since the content isn’t what Facebook has been hoping for, it’s expendable. We’re expecting to see another repeat of this playbook, with organic reach being replaced by paid reach,” says Littunen
Facebook came up with this idea just to hold it’s user’s attention on two different places for a longer time. However, Struhárik thinks that the idea is boring and would probably fail. “News feed without news. Just friends and sponsored content. People will find out how boring their friends are.”
“Publishers spend anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars creating content that goes on Facebook and staffing social media teams to produce their Pages,” wrote Ziad Ramley, former social media lead at Al Jazeera English. “Any change (or potential change) to the distribution of articles, photos, and videos has wide-ranging business impacts on pretty much everyone.”
Snapchat offers the same concept, having two separate feeds one for Snap stories and one for publisher content.