Facebook's News Feed algorithm change will cut off traffic to many digital publishers that rely on Facebook's audience — and for many it will be a death blow.
- Facebook announced a change to its News Feed algorithm that will keep posts from news publishers and brands out of your feed.
- The move will likely cut off traffic to many news sites that rely on Facebook users to stay alive.
- Facebook has repeatedly refused to admit it's a media company. Now that stance is going to take many publishers down.
Despite all the reports of fake news, fake Russian ads, and the overall abuse of its platform, Facebook has repeatedly refused to admit it's a media company.
Yes, it distributes content. Yes, it runs ads against that content. And yes, it even produces its own shows and other media. But Facebook continues to insist that despite the fact it has many of the characteristics of a media company, it doesn't need to act like one.
Now Facebook is doubling down on that theory with a drastic change to the News Feed algorithm. In the coming months, Facebook's algorithm will no longer prioritize content from news publishers and brands. Instead, you're more likely to see posts from people you're connected to that will drive engagement through comments and discussion, not shares and likes.
The result? More stuff in your feed from mom, dad, and your close friends, and fewer whacky videos, news articles, and memes. It's not just Facebook's attempt to end its fake news problem. It's Facebook's attempt to erase practically all news from the feed to give users a sense of community, not outrage and clickbait.
That new position is going to be a nightmare for a lot of digital media companies that have grown to rely on Facebook's News Feed to drive readers to their sites. There's a growing list of media companies that have been forced to drastically change strategy as a result of their reliance on the company's repeatedly changing algorithm, and this will likely be the final straw for many of them.
Mic, Mashable, Bored Panda, and so many other publishers have built most of their business around the content favored by Facebook's ever-changing algorithm. First it was news articles with click-bait headlines. Then it was meaningful content that provided relevant information. Then it was video.
But Facebook's sweeping change on Thursday means none of that content will be able to break through. There's no longer a preferred format. If you're a publisher or brand on Facebook, you're hosed. What was already going to be a very challenging 2018 for many online publishers will end with a graveyard full of outlets killed by Facebook's decision.
In short, Facebook's refusal to own up to its role as a media company is now going to end a bunch of actual media companies struggling to compete with Facebook's own power and influence over news. If you thought a bunch of layoffs at companies like Mic were bad when they decided to pivot to Facebook video, just wait until Facebook stops promoting those videos all together. I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more unemployed journalists this year.
Some are already getting ready for the reckoning. BuzzFeed News, which built its distribution largely through Facebook, already reacted to the algorithm change Thursday with a Facebook ad prompting users to download the BuzzFeed app before news disappears from the feed.
—BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 12, 2018
Other publishers like Bloomberg have decided to get ahead of the algorithm change and create community-driven Facebook groups around certain topics where they can promote their stories and drive traffic back to their sites, according to Digiday.
But those efforts might end up being futile in the end. The News Feed is a firehose of traffic, and publishers are about to see that completely cut off. Many of those publishers don't have the chops to create a loyal audience without an influx of readers or viewers from Facebook.
It's going to be ugly.