Publishers Panic as Facebook Trials Drastic Change to Their News Feed in Six Countries

The social network just launched a test in six countries which splits the news feed in two. The impact has left many small businesses without their much-needed organic reach on the platform.
Danielle  De La Bastide

Facebook is currently testing a change in its operating system that would remove non-promoted posts from its newsfeed. Something that could significantly affect publishers that rely on Facebook for their customer base.

The change is being trialed in six countries so far; Slovakia, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Cambodia and Sri Lanka will see all non-promoted posts moved to a secondary feed, allowing the main arena to focus on original content from both friends and businesses.

Though Adam Mosseri, who oversees the news feed at Facebook HQ, claimed they don’t have plans to go global with this new formulation, yet.

"The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content," he wrote. "We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it's an idea worth pursuing any further," he wrote in a blog post.

So far, this shift has reduced users’ engagement with pages to drop by almost 80 percent. Numbers like those could destroy smaller publishers who utilize Facebook in their marketing.

“Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach,” Filip Struhárik, a journalist at Slovakian newspaper Dennik N wrote in a blog. “The reach of several Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days.”

Sixty of the largest Facebook pages in Slovakia saw close to three-quarters of their Facebook reach dissipate overnight; this is according to stats collected by analytics service CrowdTangle, which happens to be owned by the social network.

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In a statement, Facebook claims the purpose of the test is to assess engagement and whether it’s worth splitting the personal from the professional.

"With all of the possible stories in each person's feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful. People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages. To understand if people like these two different spaces, we will test a few things, such as how people engage with videos and other types of posts," said a Facebook spokeswoman wrote in a statement to the Guardian

This summer Facebook introduced Explore Feed to the sidebar, the feed is a collection of your personal interests and is somewhat creepy considering Facebook is making a note of everything you browse on the main feed. Perhaps the test is an extension of this service? Though, it only seems to be happening in the six countries mentioned as Struhárik noted.

Publishers Panic as Facebook Trials Drastic Change to Their News Feed in Six Countries

“This has been going on for a couple of days now. Some users got it a few weeks ago, most users have it since the official launch of Explore Feed in the world on Thursday,” he wrote.

One thing the test is revealing is the power of Facebook marketing and how impactful the network’s news feed is for businesses both small and large.

Mosseri also stated on his Twitter that it is likely the tests would continue for months despite the uproar. 

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