Brands and businesses on Facebook have another reason to be skittish and skeptical with the most recent test from Facebook, being called Explore Feed, wherein all non ad Page posts lay isolated.
The new Explore Feed, after being tested in six countries, namely Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia, resulted in a 60 to 80 percent drop in referral traffic to news outlets in the aforementioned markets.
A near 4X drop in engagement is certainly not good news for publishers who rely on Facebook for referral traffic.
Earlier, Facebook had begun to experiment by showing posts from Pages that a user did not follow, Events, Moments, Groups and more, under the Explore Feed, although these new tests have shaken things up further.
Facebook’s VP of News Feed, Adam Mosseri writes that “We currently have no plans to roll this test out further.” although he added in a tweet that
Likely months as it can take that long for people to adapt, but we'll be looking to improve the experience in the meantime.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) October 23, 2017
Many publishers have adapted to rely on social media for referral traffic, and needless to say, the 2 billion strong Facebook has the heaviest influence of them all.
Adam Mosseri says the tests could go on for months, “…as it can take that long for people to adapt, but we’ll be looking to improve the experience in the meantime.”
TechCrunch’s Josh Constine thinks, “Those months of Facebook drought could be ruinous for some publishers who’ve grown to rely on the social network for referral traffic, and that have hired staff to produce content funded by the ad views driven by Facebook referrals. Publishers trying to follow the trend of increased video watching on Facebook could also have problems if a News Feed change massively decreases the viewership of videos that are expensive to produce.”
This isn’t the first brush of conflict between Facebook and publishers, as in the past, both have been at loggerheads due to Instant Articles too, which diminishes website traffic for publishers and eventually many had to cave in.
Facebook recently made amends, and offered a subscription based service for Instant Articles and chose not to take a piece of that pie, although that ended up hitting an unexpected roadblock with Apple, who insist on a 30% share of all in-app purchases, which the subscription service wasn’t, as insisted by Facebook.
This resulted in the iOS devices being exempt from the new service, as it was only introduced to Android devices.
For Facebook, the interests of their users are primary, and to keep those interests entertained and fulfilled, it has spelled doom for many others.
“This same situation has played out a half dozen times on Facebook, all to the detriment of third-party developers and publishers. Facebook saw users didn’t like viral game spam, so it turned off game virality and developers like Zynga imploded. Apps like BandPage let musicians stream music from the landing tab of their Facebook Pages, until Facebook banned landing tabs and BandPage lost 90 percent of its traffic in three months. It saw its Open Graph social reader apps were clogging the feed, so it removed most of their visibility and the apps plummeted. The desktop sidebar Ticker showed what friends were doing in third-party apps and was filled with Spotify listening activity, until Facebook muted the channel and eventually all-but-deleted it.” Josh Constine further elaborates.
The Guardian, one of the world’s most read and referred to publishers have chosen to address the situation with an honest disclosure/plea to their avid readers.
Guess all there is when one depends on Facebook is to have a robust contingency plan, as Facebook can change their algorithms and introduce new updates that could destroy, if not major, but many other minor publications.