Facebook’s new look
With the conclusion of F8, Facebook users have a virtual world full of new enhancements at their fingertips. As exciting as that is, some would be perfectly content with a little more information about what’s currently happening—or not.
Over the course of the last three months, Facebook reach among established publishers has been declining at alarming levels, and no one understands quite why. Guessing the anomalies behind the news feed algorithm changes has been grist for speculation for many years, with industry insiders occasionally able to make the right predictions.
What’s goin’ on?
But over the course of this spring? No one has the answers. Kurt Gessler, deputy director for digital news at the Chicago Tribune, tweeted that since the beginning of the year, they’ve grown their followers, yet seen a precipitous drop in post reach. His tweet prompted multitudes of other publishers to note the same thing, in publishers as diverse as The Boston Globe to Religion News Service.
Matt Karolian, the director of audience engagement at The Boston Globe, speaking to Digiday, noted that “last month was probably the worst we’ve had in reach in about a year. The fact everyone else is seeing it is a little bit troubling.”
In the absence of facts, speculation runs rampant.
Some thought originally that the collapse was limited to Chicago, until response came in from other publishers across the nation. Others have posited that Facebook is expressing a desire for more embedded video over text postings, with sites that utilize video posts seeing a boost in post reach. Joe Speiser, the co-founder of LittleThings, said to Digiday that, “Facebook’s made very clear video is a priority. You can go through the feed yourself. Video is everywhere.” The investment has paid off for Speiser, with LittleThings seeing its second highest traffic in March of this year, after they moved to primarily video posts.
Others have speculated that organic reach is dying in an effort for Facebook to drive more spending from publishers.
Wallaroo Media CEO Brandon Doyle told Digiday that for the nearly 20 publishers he follows that organic reach has declined for each.
Access is still paramount
Whichever of these is the real reason for the decline—if any of them are—it’s important to think about the increasingly larger segment of the world populace that gets its news primarily from Facebook. With the recent emphasis on “fake news,” or perhaps, more gently, opinions in the guide of facts, it’s vital that quality news sources have access to inform the populace.
Communication plans should include social media to be sure, but for publishers, who have seen the traditional promotion and publication of their work change drastically over the past 15 years, social media is a source of lifeblood, connecting them and their audiences. To shy away from a social media approach—especially one as penetrating as Facebook–for them puts them not only at a competitive disadvantage with their competitors, but also runs the risk of regulating them to the bin of inattention.
“In my mind, we’re kind of at the mercy of the algorithm,” Aysha Khan, the social media editor at Religion News Service said to Digiday.
“But there’s a lot of stories that are getting underwhelming responses that readers can’t even see. It is this constant thing, trying to figure out how to incorporate it into your workflow. At one point they were pushing images, and then they were pushing video, and live video. I don’t think it’ll ever stop.”