journalism, news, publishing, socialmedia

Facebook’s News Feed changes leave publishers with strategies to rethink and a tougher battle against fake news

Facebook spelled out in Scrabble letter tiles
Facebook changes have left publishers with an unexpected challenge to start 2018

Publishers have been dealt a head-scratching start to 2018, following confirmation of Facebook’s previously tested News Feed changes, shifting directly posted news out of the main News Feed, leaving many strategies with an unexpected hole to plug (‘translated’ here for in layman’s terms by Adam Tinworth).

Essentially it boils down to this, from  Facebook’s own post ‘News Feed FYI: Bringing People Closer Together’, the killer blow in bold:

Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.

But amongst the issues and talking points, there could now be serious problems for official sources and publishers given a scenario where a person shares a post containing a bogus fact or fake news (whether intentional or not), appearing happily on any users News Feed, but a post from an official organisation or publisher responding, clarifying or verifying this incorrect post, would under the new logic, gain far less traction compared to the ‘popular’ post and have to work far harder to reach all those that would have seen the original. Thus reversing work done and and commitments to battle fake news by Facebook itself.

For example, the New York Times highlights:

“A bogus news story that spread in December illustrates the problem, Mr. Struharik said. The story claimed that a Muslim man had thanked a good Samaritan for returning his lost wallet, and had warned the Samaritan of a terrorist attack that was planned at a Christmas market.

The fabricated story circulated so widely that the local police issued a statement saying it wasn’t true. But when the police went to issue the warning on Facebook, they found that the message — unlike the fake news story they meant to combat — could no longer appear on News Feed because it came from an official account.”

As Frederic Filloux points out in his latest Monday Note post,”Facebook is done with quality journalism. Deal with it.” after all the troubles with ‘fake news and bad PR‘:

“Facebook has all the reasons in the world to get rid of journalism:

As acknowledged several times by Mark Zuckerberg, news doesn’t share well, compared to friends and family posts, while the entire Facebook model is based on the speed of sharing, multiplied by its two billion users, and coupled to an unparalleled knowledge of each one.”

Some interesting thoughts, amongst the various musings on ‘what do we do now’ posts from across media landscape, on amended strategies for publishers, from Lara O’Reilly at the WSJ (via Twitter), HT to Adam Tinworth – will be interesting to see how these might develop:

How publishers will react: 🔵

  • Facebook Groups prioritised 🔵
  • More journalists will be encouraged to have public profile pages 🔵
  • “Tell us what you think in the comments!”

As Facebook outline:

Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.

Essentially, for publishers, these News Feed changes mean a renewed focus on making your own site’s content as engaging, shareable (in both a technical and emotive sense) and SEO-friendly.

Relying heavily on traffic from and an audience via Facebook was always going to be a gamble. ultimately they are a profit-driven business, so whatever changes they’ve made or concessions might have come along for public organisations, the bottom line will always be the bottom line.

The goal posts have shifted, as we always knew they would. Publishers’ must battle on.

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