Facebook’s New News Feed: How Newsrooms Can Adapt


By Justin Sablich 

Facebook’s announcement last month that it would be making significant changes to its News Feed in an attempt to create “more meaningful social interactions” for its users induced anger and panic throughout the digital media world. 

The changes, which are already underway, will reduce news organizations’ ability to reach readers through organic Facebook posts.

“As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote. 

While this change appears to be the most drastic one in terms of affecting digital newsrooms, it’s certainly not the first, and newsrooms were already seeing their traffic affected significantly in recent months before this latest shift.

The organic traffic Facebook sent to publishers went from 40 percent in January 2017 to 26 percent in January 2018, according to Parse.ly. Meanwhile, traffic from Google increased from 34 percent to 44 percent over the same time frame.

If your newsroom doesn’t have a plan in place for becoming less dependent on Facebook, here are a few ways to make up for that lost traffic, as well as making your overall audience development strategy more “meaningful.” 

Diversify Your Strategy

A multi-pronged audience development plan is now more important than ever. Take this opportunity to revisit your SEO, email newsletter and other strategies.

“Publishers will need a renewed focus on SEO — especially those that have been social-first,” writes digital publishing strategist Adam Tinworth. 

Also consider strategies that may not seem to have an immediate payoff but that could make more of an impact down the road.

Mobile push notifications presently account for a small percentage of overall traffic for news publishers, according to a Tow Center for Digital Journalism study, but it wasn’t that long ago that Facebook was only driving a small amount of traffic. 

In 2010, traffic from Facebook accounted for 6 percent of total visits to nytimes.com, which at the time was a lot compared to other news organizations. By 2012, according to Parse.ly data, Facebook drove 12 percent of overall traffic to news organizations in general and in 2016 it was up to 40 percent. 

While mobile notifications could eventually drive more traffic, it’s already an important metric in terms of engagement. 

Focus on Engagement

When it comes to engagement, Instagram, not Facebook, is king. 

Instagram has over 800 million monthly users, and, according to one study, engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times more than Facebook, 54 times more than Pinterest and 84 times more than Twitter. Additionally, increasingly popular aspects of Instagram, like Instagram Stories, mean there’s room for further growth.

More Live Video

You don’t need to give up on Facebook completely, especially as some of its storytelling tools are still valued by its algorithm. Facebook gave live video more priority in its search results back in 2016 and the format will continue to be featured prominently.

“Conversations stemming from live videos, celebrities’ posts, private groups and other highly interactive post types will be among those highlighted on the new News Feed,” according to nytimes.com. 

Facebook says that its users comment rough 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on its regular videos.

Quality Over Quantity 

Maybe you don’t need to post every news brief and wire story on your Facebook page?

In fact, you really shouldn’t overpost on Facebook. The platform was already taking into account engagement levels of your posts to determine their rankings in people’s newsfeeds, and the idea of quality over quantity is only going to be more important moving forward. 

According to socialmediatoday.com, each Facebook user could see up to 1,500 different pieces of content each day, but only see about 300. 

“People followed you for a reason. Don't give them a reason to leave by not providing value or something new,” writes marketing expert Karisa Egan. “Just because you post every hour doesn't mean that the content you're providing them is worthwhile.”


Justin Sablich is freelance journalist and social media strategist as well as a contributing writer and editor at The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustinSablich.

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