Publishers, it’s 2018, and Facebook is just not that into you anymore…
Facebook has never really been a friend to publishers, but it has offered a way for them to increase referral traffic and marginally improve engagement. This comes at a real cost to publishers, however, as they then effectively give away user data, become unpaid content creators, and bolster Facebook’s advertising strategy in hopes of driving a few more page views. Facebook’s (and Google’s) relationship with publishers has always been more parasitic than symbiotic, but in 2018, Facebook seems poised to abandon publishers altogether.
Facebook has been exploring a “newsless” feed called Explore Feed that separates news from user and sponsor content. Facebook has evaluated user’s behaviour and concluded that incorporating hard news into its feed—particularly in an age of “fake news” and coverage of divisive issues—turns users off and negatively impacts advertising and engagement.
Publishers need to imagine a life without Facebook. If you rely on social media to drive traffic to your news site, things are likely to change over the next 18 months as news is culled from social media feeds and replaced with user content, celebrity and entertainment news, and sponsored content.
Stick to a local content and retail ad strategy, adopt technology that helps to improve content consumption and reader engagement, and leverage social media to increase individual journalists’ social “capital” and you’ll be more likely to yield results than hoping other platforms will build your business.
Whether Facebook abandons news or not, publishers need to take control of their content, audience, and data to succeed. Facebook really isn’t that into you—and it’s time you take action.