World Association of News Publishers

Facebook’s feed with less news: How should publishers respond?

Facebook’s feed with less news: How should publishers respond?


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Facebook recently announced a number of changes to its platform, but its decision to "deprioritise" media content from its news feeds zeroed in on the news industry. What are the implications for news publishers? And how should they respond?

WAN-IFRA called on Grzegorz Piechota, a researcher at the University of Oxford and a former Nieman fellow at Harvard, to analyse these latest moves. Piechota wrote WAN-IFRA's report in the fall of 2017, "Reality check – making money with Facebook." 

This report is presented in the form of a narrative "slide deck," packed with Piechota's findings and analysis.

Its contents:

  • Factsheet: What has really changed? Facebook’s announcements, media coverage and trends
  • Analysis: How the changes affect publishers? Ideas for risk assessment, impact on regulatory issues
  • To-do list, part I: What might be the reaction? Ideas to fill the gap in traffic using various Facebook tactics
  • To-do list, part II: Traffic sources beyond Facebook, breakdown of platform strategies

So what has really changed?

  • In a strategic move, Facebook steers away from media business to its communication roots. It shifts KPIs from attention-based (e.g. time) to interaction-based (e.g. number of comments). Changes in FB algorithms are expected to further decrease amount of news its users see in their News Feeds significantly. And the impact will not be evenly distributed, as brands found “broadly trusted” or the local news outlets may lose less or gain at the expense of others.
  • Facebook’s announcements were met with surprise, but perhaps they shouldn’t have been. It is not the first and won’t be the last time FB tweaks algorithms, especially in regards to the balance between user-generated and media publishers’ content. The detailed changes were also not as unpredictable as some observers claimed: research papers that inspired the decisions were public since 2016 and 2017.

How the changes impact publishers

Piechota lays out who is at risk and how publishers can assess the risks on their business, such as analysing origins of traffic referred by Facebook (own vs. sharing), or analysing political polarisation of their readership and market. Essentially, by favouring less partisan news coverage, the tech giant acts like a “de facto media regulator.”

To-do list, part I

How to respond to the changes?: There are many ways a publisher may try to fill the gap in the traffic, even on Facebook.

Piechota dives into the science of sharing, as much of these changes affect how editors and journalists go about engaging with their audiences.

Many publishers are starting to tap into Facebook Groups to have a deeper relationship with their loyal audiences on the platform. So what are the differences for publishers working on FB Pages vs. FB Groups? And will Paid posts help fill the gap and how do they stack up against Groups?

To-do list, part II

What are the growth opportunities beyond Facebook? Does it lie in mobilising your user base on your own site or app to visit more frequently? Explore opportunities for growth in traffic on other platforms? Whatever you do, publishers need to assess how any platform strategy aligns with their overall business model, not the other way around.


Grzegorz Piechota


WAN-IFRA's picture



2018-02-13 10:13

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