Over the years, Facebook has made numerous changes to its platform and many have helped media companies and publishers to have a larger influence on the website. However, this all changed recently after Facebook announced plans to prioritize status updates from family and friends of users as opposed to content from brands and media publishers. Since many publishers have relied on the social media platform to build an audience, this could just be the bad news they were hoping to avoid.
Why the change? In recent times, Facebook has been under the microscope when it comes to fake news and misinformation. As a result, the whole business model is adjusting and experts say that media (and online retail) will be the collateral damage. However, this news hasn't exactly been welcomed by everybody with the editor-in-chief for the San Francisco Chronicle noting how getting rid of all news isn't the best way to resolve the issue of fake news.
‘Reputable Publishers’ - According to the new algorithm from Facebook, ‘reputable publishers’ will feature on the News Feed and some publishers were told this but what does it mean? Sadly, there was no definition nor did they note how traffic will change for others. For Buzzfeed, they’ve created their whole brand on viral content on sites like Facebook but they don’t seem to be worrying just yet.
According to a spokeswoman for the company, the mission of Buzzfeed has always been to create content that can be shared easily and makes friend/families stay close through simple interactions. Therefore, their plan won’t change with this Facebook adjustment and they expect to continue on the same path. In fact, they’ve already taken some steps to evolve alongside the changing world.
In addition to this, The Financial Times noted their happiness with the change since it shows Facebook’s willingness to support trustworthy and reliable news sources. This being said, the CEO did note the importance of also working on a long-term solution such as a subscription model that allows a direct relationship to form between readers and publishers. Without this step, the chief of The Financial Times believes quality content will become impossible to produce considering most of all advertising spending for companies is being pumped into search and social media platforms.
Facebook’s Emails - Rather than introducing the change and ignoring the result, Facebook has had an active role in easing concerns for publishers. For example, the Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, has been sending emails to ‘a couple dozen’ publishing partners of Facebook. In the emails, she has explained how content coming directly from brands, celebrities, and publishers may be seen less. While this will provide some disruption, Brown suggested the solution to be the creation of content that is shareable and enjoyable for users of the platform. If they can produce high-quality content, the community interaction should counteract any losses with the new policy.
As the updates go live over the next couple of months, Brown has noted how some pages will see a decrease in video watch time, reach, and referral traffic. When pages can create content that encourages interaction between users, they will perform stronger than pages that aim for passive consumption without the sort of engagement for which Facebook is looking.
Finally, Brown noted how news is still so important for Facebook which means they’ll continue to work with publishers moving forward. For Brown, she says the company recognizes the impact even a small update can have and that the changes can take a little time to work out in full. Yet, by working together and creating open lines of communication, publishers will know how to succeed and the public can stay well-informed and connected.
Summary - For many, this is a positive first step from Facebook because it shows their commitment to keep Facebook as a source of reliable news stories as opposed to the fake news we’ve been seeing more and more over the past 18 months. Will online retail and brands be able to counter the losses with shareable content that encourages interaction? While we can’t answer this just yet, it’s only a matter of time before we find out!