Facebook is testing a major change that would shift non-promoted posts out of its news feed, a move that could be catastrophic for publishers relying on the social network for their audience.
A new system being trialled in six countries including Slovakia, Serbia and Sri Lanka sees almost all non-promoted posts shifted over to a secondary feed, leaving the main feed focused entirely on original content from friends, and paid-for adverts.
Some Facebook pages affected by the trial have already seen a drop in user engagement of between 60 and 80%. It is causing significant drops in pages’ organic reach, and if the new change is implemented globally, it could mean that only publishers who can afford to pay for Facebook advertising will be able to reach a wide audience.
In a statement, Facebook said: “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.”
Matti Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis, said the move was “the classic Facebook playbook: first give lots of organic reach to one content type, then they have to pay for reach, then they can only get through to anyone by paying.”
My fear is that as Facebook users are used to seeing everything in one news feed, if the friends/promoted post feed becomes the default, a lot of people may not bother to click onto the secondary feed to see posts from non-promoted pages and groups, or they may not even realise it exists and therefore miss out. This could affect the reach of pages such as MBGA News and the People’s Charter Foundation. The default Facebook feed could become dominated by the big mainstream news publishers who can afford to spend millions on advertising, while smaller independent publishers are squeezed out.
In a second statement Facebook added: “We have no current plans to roll this out globally.”