Facebook is testing a major change that would shift non-promoted posts out of its news feed in six countries, leaving some worrying it could be catastrophic for publishers relying on the social network for their audience. The social media kingpin clarified there would be no global launch anytime soon.
Facebook may be separating your newsfeed into two different streams: one for your friends' posts and the other - dubbed 'explore' - for publishers. This is to keep personal posts from friends from getting buried by news sources that you may follow, the company explained.
Split feeds would most likely lead to less organic business reach because, even if people looked at their "explore" page, a new Facebook feature rolling out worldwide, a page's content won't naturally show up in the primary feed, and will miss people. In the split feed set-up, businesses would need to purchase ads in order to appear in the friends feed, according to Reuters.
The test, which relegated all published content in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia to the "explore" feed had a devastating effect on engagement for journalistic organisations in those countries.
In Slovakia, one of the six markets subjected to the trial, publishers have already seen some of the most dramatic plummets in reach and engagement they've ever recorded. The country's sixty biggest media outlets have notched four times fewer interactions in the time since the test began, according to research firm CrowdTangle. One Slovakian newspaper said its traffic fell by two thirds.
The social network has been gradually winding down the number of users reachable without paid promotion for years as it has made room for more ads.
— Matt Navarra ⭐️ (@MattNavarra) October 21, 2017
Adam Mosseri, head of the news feed at Facebook, denied that there are any plans to expand the experiment beyond the current six countries. "We currently have no plans to roll this test out further," he said in a blog post titled Clarifying recent tests.
He explained that the goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. "We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further. There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in newsfeed or explore."
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