Digital Content Next—Facebook’s recent newsfeed algorithm changes have left publishers with a lot of questions. Many who relied heavily on Facebook and other third-party distribution sites find themselves needing to look elsewhere. Now these publishers are focusing on building stronger on-site communities and finding other distribution platforms that are more publisher-friendly. They’re wondering about Facebook’s decision, how they will be affected, and what they should do next.
Since the algorithm change, here are some of the most common questions I’ve encountered in talks with publishers:
Why did Facebook make the decision to de-prioritize publisher content in its Feed?
As many entrepreneurs are, I see Mark Zuckerberg as someone who takes his business personally. While I don’t think he’d act against his own best interests, I do think his decision in some ways was a reaction to the polarization that the news can create. This way, Facebook is not choosing a side, or subjectively deciding which news is ‘appropriate’ and ‘real.’ It looks like they’re disengaging.
Are there specific ad formats/publisher inventory you believe will be hurt the most by Facebook’s decision?
It’s not so much about ad format, in my opinion. Facebook’s big appeal to publishers was the benefit of strong audience development and the convenience of content distribution. These will be the main things that disrupt publishers the most. Facebook actively courted publishers for years on end, promising them audience and shared revenue. This shift could be quite the loss for the publishers who relied heavily on the platform for audience development.
What 2-3 platforms could rise up to support publishers in the absence of Facebook?
I believe that Snapchat and Twitter both have the potential benefit from Facebook’s shift. That being said, Snapchat is certainly the platform that will benefit the most. Their publisher-focused Discover Channels are central to the platform. Especially with the most recent interface update, Discover Channels are positioned in a way that is meant to drive as much user traffic as possible. Snapchat has certainly jumped into the lead role in providing a solution to publishers who were thrown off by Facebook’s changes. They are a publisher-friendly platform on the market right now.
Should publishers forget about third-party distribution and refocus on building engagement/audience on-site?
Publishers are always working to build on-site audiences. But of course, that’s much easier said than done. These third-party distribution platforms—like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat—help identify and grab that audience, making it easier to build those communities back on-site. The issue for some publishers is that they become too comfortable with third-party platforms and, in turn, rely too heavily on them. There will always be a happy medium for both, though, as third parties remain a great tool for audience engagement and content distribution.
Facebook’s shift has certainly stirred up some uncertainty among publishers, regarding whether or not third-party distribution platforms are a reliable tool, and if the risk outweighs the rewards. These publishers will ultimately find comfort in the publisher-friendly models of other third parties, specifically Snapchat – but they will also invest more time and resources into building core communities on-site.