Facebook’s News Feed Tests Could Be Bad News For Publishers

As Facebook continues to develop its monetization initiatives, its relationship with both users and publishers hangs in the balance. The platform is currently conducting tests to its news feed in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, showing that Facebook is aware of how important it is to balance monetization and user experience. But at what cost for publishers?

What did Facebook test?

Facebook’s news feed is a piece of highly valuable real estate, but with limited space. Facebook has to find a way to balance promoted ads and content from pages with the content that users come to Facebook for. And the platform is running out of space.

In the ongoing tests, which are taking place in five countries, Facebook is dividing the news feed into two distinct streams: the newsfeed for friends and family, and the “Explore” feed for pages and public content.

Facebook’s reasoning is that some users have expressed a desire to make it easier to find posts from their friends and families. Dividing the newsfeed in this way would be a way of ensuring that this happens. There are rumours that Facebook would still accept a limited amount of sponsored posts within the traditional newsfeed, making Facebook a “pay-to-play” platform.

What could it mean for publishers?

This change means that publishers could see the organic reach of their posts dramatically reduced, as happened to those pages affected by the current tests. For publishers that rely on the Facebook news feed to disseminate their content, they should carefully monitor if they observe any changes.

How likely is it this change to be rolled out further?

Facebook has said in its “Clarifying Recent Tests” post that it currently has “no plans to roll this test out further”. Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, then goes on to say 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.”

So while the post assuages some concerns, it seems that a wider roll-out is not imminent but not ruled out in the future. Publishers that use Facebook extensively to share their content should remain vigilant and monitor the performance of their Facebook posts.

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