Facebook News Feed: Friends and Family or Revenue from Publishers?

Facebook News Feed: Friends and Family or Revenue from Publishers?

Here I am again writing about Facebook. A company I hate more than I love. On the one hand, it offers a super powerful communication tool to stay connected with friends who live in different countries around the world. On the other hand, Facebook utilizes ugly tricks to make us addicted to their platform.

By using various psychological tricks, they ensure that users spend as much time as possible on Facebook and Instagram. Why? Facebook is a publicly traded company. The shareholders demand growth and profits. Growth is created by utilizing ugly psychological tricks to more and more people around the globe. Profits are created by charging advertisers to reach all these users with every little bit of information Facebook has about their users.

Now, Mark Zuckerberg (CEO Facebook) said in a statement that Facebook would introduce a change in the news feed. He wants to put the priority on friends and family again instead of businesses and media. Seeing more posts from friends and family and fewer posts from companies and news publishers? Sounds like a great deal! However, this move might be a dirty way to start charging news publishers and businesses more money. A way to squeeze even more money out of their advertisers to – wait for a second – raise their profits.

Pseudo-Good for Users, Bad for Publishers, Great for Profits

Here is what I think about Facebook’s latest move. First, the described change will mean that businesses and media outlets will have even less organic reach than before. Organic reach describes the reach businesses or news outlets have, without paying to boost or advertise their posts. This means that after the latest change, media outlets will see a significant drop in readership. Businesses will – even more than before – have to pay for nearly all of their posts to reach their fans.

In fact, Filip Struharik showed that Facebook already implemented an A/B test in several countries (Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia) where Facebook removed publishers and businesses entirely from the news feed. During this time, publishers saw an immediate drop in reach.

So, Facebook’s plan is – apparently – to start charging news outlets to reach their readers. Experts have already interpreted these signs in Q4 2017. The current step is therefore not a surprise for experts of the social media industry.

Either Facebook is going to remove editorial and business posts from the news feed entirely and it will put them in a separate tab, or it will stay with the current announcement and limit the reach of Facebook pages drastically.

Limiting Free-Speech?

I think this is a dangerous step in multiple instances. First, it limits the reach of independent opposition news media in developing countries as an alternative to the states media. Secondly, limiting the reach of news outlets will allow the largest publishing companies (i.e., NYT, The Economist, Washington Post, etc.) to buy their reach. Small publishing companies cannot afford to buy their reach on a large scale and – thus – see a drastic drop in readership.

What do you think? Is Facebook’s decision to limit the organic growth an excellent choice for users or a threat to free speech? Write a comment below, and I will join the discussion.

Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

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