News Feed changes


By Lucia Moses

Audience development pros have become critical to how publishers reach new readers and make money. But now that Facebook is all but turning off publishers’ reach in the news feed, audience development groups feel both vindication and new pressures.

For many, there’s a sense of relief and triumph. The role of audience development is often misunderstood as posting links to social platforms. Now, suddenly, audience development is seen as far more strategic. But with great power comes great responsibility.

For Kurt Gessler, deputy digital editor at the Chicago Tribune, there was “panic initially,” followed by vindication and, he allowed, “a little smugness.” That’s because the Tribune only posts about 10 percent of its content on Facebook, and its audience development experts do other tasks in the newsroom so they’re not isolated or working at cross-purposes with editorial.

“It reinforces a lot of the things we and others have been saying,” Gessler said of the news feed change, which Facebook said will prioritize users’ posts over news. “We were always much more interested in quality over quantity. We were never firehosing into Facebook.”

Arguably, the role of audience development — some prefer the fancier “audience engagement” — is more important than ever. The old time-tested practice of using Facebook to drive massive traffic on the cheap to build audiences and fulfill ad campaigns is going away. Building audience in a sustainable way means mastering other distributed platforms and getting direct traffic, too.

One audience exec at a major publisher likened the algorithm change to “the end of an abusive relationship. Facebook abused us for so long and we just kept going back to them, and you finally are like, ‘OK, I’m going to walk away.’”

“I think this gives them more freedom to not worry about the click but think about the engagement,” Keith Hernandez, svp of strategy at Bleacher Report, said of audience development teams. Audience development’s importance at the sports publisher has already been growing; the branded content team has been bringing audience staffers into its pitch meetings for the past six months to advise on editorial trends.

If audience people are more important, they also face more insecurity and pressure than ever. Some will have to answer for their reliance on Facebook. (Cue the schadenfreude among publishers that say they saw the writing on the wall and already weaned themselves off Facebook dependence.) They’re aware that some people think their jobs could be done just as well by tweet-writing robots. They have to figure out new rules for success at a time when Facebook reach is declining.

By Lucia Moses

Sourced from DIGIDAY UK

By Emily Tan.

Facebook’s decision to re-prioritize its News Feed to favour “social interactions” over other forms of content may please its users, but will be challenging for brands.

In a post last night, Facebook announced that it would be introducing changes to its news feed algorithm in the coming year to ensure that posts by friends and family on Facebook appear higher in the news feed.

“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands, and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” wrote Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg.

The changes Facebook is rolling out to combat this will mean that users will start to see less public content such as posts from businesses, brands, and media. The platform claims that the content users see will be the material that “encourages meaningful interactions between people.”

This move may be detrimental to brands, businesses, and publishers and will even limit Facebook’s short-term growth, but is ultimately beneficial for the social network in the long-term, said Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Group.

“The company was understandably focused on driving user growth over the years, although former Facebook executives have recently described negative impacts on consumers from those efforts. To the extent that those criticisms are valid, action is warranted,” Wieser said, adding that time spent by users on Facebook had started to decline prior to this decision.

Impact on brands

As Facebook takes these steps and invests in premium content to improve its user-experience, so too must brands on Facebook look to create better content, advised Greg Allum, head of social at Jellyfish.

“We [marketers] need to be clever with our content and understand what resonates with the consumer and why. More importantly, we all need to become better media planners,” Allum said.

Facebook will be looking to offset the hit it will take to near-term revenue from advertisers by stoking Instagram’s growth, Wieser noted. The platform will also be able to use this new approach to focus on higher-paying advertisers, and using more refined targeting methods to satisfy advertiser goals with less inventory.

Publishers may be most affected

In the end though, media owners are likely to be the most affected by this update, commented Allum.

While Facebook’s announcement may, on the surface, appear to tackle the issue of the spread of fake news and click-bait, that will ultimately depend on a user’s friendship circles. This may, in fact, increase the filter bubble effect as users only see posts shared predominantly by the people they interact with the most.

Publishers, who are already challenged on the platform, may not agree to continue investing their media budgets in Facebook with this change.

However, Allum believes that while publishers will test and learn on other channels, they will ultimately return to Facebook.

“The lure of a captive audience will be too much for them, but they will shift their strategy and concentrate on creating less but bigger and better pieces of content, which in turn will improve the user experience for consumers. Although brands could see an increase in the cost to advertise as the channel becomes more competitive,” he said.

Financial Times chief executive, John Ridding, criticized Facebook’s update as not particularly helpful to quality publishers.

“As a long-standing publisher of quality journalism, the FT welcomes moves to recognize and support trusted and reliable news and analysis. But a sustainable solution to the challenges of the new information ecosystem requires further measure—in particular, a viable subscription model on platforms that enables publishers to build a direct relationship with readers and to manage the terms of access to their content,” he said. “Without that—as the large majority of all new online advertising spend continues to go to the search and social media platforms—quality content will no longer be a choice or an option. And that would be the worst outcome for all.”

This story first appeared on campaignlive.co.uk.

By Emily Tan.

Sourced from PR Week