- In a dramatic shake-up, Facebook said it would start playing up status updates from friends and family in its News Feed, effectively deprioritizing content from media publishers and brands.
- Publishers are likely to take a hit and are bracing for a dramatic effect on their businesses.
- “Media is collateral damage,” said Derek Mead, Vice Media’s global executive editor.
- Facebook attempted to assuage publishers’ fears through an email to partners by its head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown.
Publishers and media companies got a rude awakening on Thursday after Facebook announced sweeping changes to its News Feed.
In a dramatic shake-up Facebook said it would start playing up status updates from friends and family in the News Feed, effectively deprioritizing content from media publishers and brands.
Publishers in particular — many of whom have relied on Facebook to build up huge audiences and achieve viral gold — are likely to take a hit from the change.
Many have already been seeing a drop in Facebook-referred readership in recent months as the company has conducted tests designed to amplify users’ content and weed out clickbait in the face of mounting criticism that it has been a platform for misinformation and fake news.
“Facebook is dramatically reshaping its business in response to the first real existential risk since gaining dominance,” Derek Mead, Vice Media’s global executive editor, who was previously the editor-in-chief of Motherboard, said in a tweet. “And media is collateral damage.”
Whoops meant to reply: Facebook is dramatically reshaping its business in response to the first real existential risk since gaining dominance and media is collateral damage https://t.co/F3uLY2X4HN?amp=1
— ᴅᴇʀᴇᴋ ᴍᴇᴀᴅ (@derektmead) January 12, 2018
Mead added that the past year was an “inflection point” in that the way news was delivered on the platform became “more of a liability to Facebook than an asset.”
“I cannot overstate how much Facebook is just screwing our news operations and our democracy over and over and over,” said Audrey Cooper, San Francisco Chronicle’s editor-in-chief, slamming Facebook’s move to solve its fake news problem by getting rid of news altogether.
Facebook says all that pesky news in your feed is making you cranky. Also, fake news is hard to fix. So let’s get rid of news in your feed!
I cannot overstate how much Facebook is just screwing our news operations and our democracy over and over and over. https://t.co/TFQ5NlBqEn
— Audrey Cooper (@audreycoopersf) January 12, 2018
How does Facebook decide what a ‘reputable publisher’ is?
Facebook told some publishers that content from reputable publishers would surface on the News Feed based on the new algorithm, Digiday reported. But it didn’t define such a publisher or say how others may expect their traffic to change.
BuzzFeed — which has arguably built its brand on the back of viral content on social media — did not seem to be panicking.
“BuzzFeed’s mission from day one has been to create shareable content that enables meaningful interaction among families and friends; meaningful social content is our sweet spot,” a BuzzFeed spokeswoman told Business Insider. “We expect to continue to fulfill that mission and transcend these News Feed changes, which confirm trends we’ve seen over the platform in recent months and have already taken steps to evolve alongside.”
The Financial Times said it welcomed the move to recognize and support trusted and reliable news and analysis.
But its CEO, John Ridding, said a sustainable solution to the challenges of the new information ecosystem required further measures, “in particular, a viable subscription model on platforms that enables publishers to build a direct relationship with readers and to manage the terms of access to their content.”
“Without that — as the large majority of all new online advertising spend continues to go to the search and social-media platforms — quality content will no longer be a choice or an option,” he said. “And that would be the worst outcome for all.”
As publishers come to terms with a new reality on Facebook, the company is attempting to allay its partners’ fears. Digiday on Friday published an email from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, to what the outlet said was sent to “a couple dozen” publisher partners.
People may see less content that comes directly from publishers, brands, and celebrities in their News Feed, Brown wrote. While that is likely to be disruptive, Brown suggested publishers could weather the change by prioritizing content that “encourages community connection.”
“Some pages may see their reach, video watch time, and referral traffic decrease as the updates roll out over the next couple of months,” she wrote.
Brown added: “Content from pages that drives interactions between friends will perform better than page content that drives only passive consumption without any person-to-person engagement.”
Ultimately, Brown emphasized that news remained a top priority for Facebook and that it would continue to work with publishers.
“We know even a small update to News Feed can be disruptive to your business, and this change will take some time to figure out,” she wrote, adding: “My hope is that through our continued partnership, we will work through this together toward a shared goal of a more informed and connected public.”