As you may have read in the press a few days ago, Facebook is currently carrying out tests in some markets on the separation of information stream into two separate feeds, one being reserved for private posts, which allows you to follow the hectic life of your friends and family, spiced up with ads and the other dedicated to the rest of the organic posts, where you can find posts of the pages you follow in a jumble, whether of commercial or editorial nature.

This announcement is enough to make publishers tremble, they who already got their fingers burnt by the multiple unpredictable reversals of the made in Menlo Park algorithm.

The personal feed (“family & friend (s)”, interspersed by paid ads) is the default stream in this test, while the organic public feed, simply called the ” exploration feed”, is relegated to several clicks / taps from the home screen, making it highly unlikely that there would be… exploration. Somehow a stream of second zone.

The Slovakian journalist, Filip Struhárik shared on Medium some worrying figures about the impact of the test in his country. Since the beginning of the experiment, the sixty major Slovak publishers have recorded 4 times less organic interactions than before (likes, comments, shares). The trend would be comparable in two other test markets, Guatemala and Cambodia (the test is also deployed in Sri Lanka, Serbia and Bolivia). The “free” reach would therefore be experiencing a sharp drop.

separation of feeds Facebook

Evolution of the organic reach of the main Slovak Facebook pages after the start of the experiment.

For the sake of the user?

As usual, Facebook justifies its tests with a constant concern to improve the user experience (mainly to its advantage, of course), without necessarily worrying about the major impact of such an experiment on publishers who have given it their trust (and have already spent considerable sums to boost their organic posts). Facebook, at this point has no intention of expanding the initiative, whose analysis could take several months. But the mere fact that the experiment is in progress suggests the possibility of an outcome to which one must be prepared.

Larger publishers seem not to have suffered a lot in terms of traffic because they have a strong online presence, a loyal readership and disseminate their distribution via a variety of channels. But the smaller players, brought up on social networks, have a harder time dealing with the shock. It is even worse for those who chose to put all their eggs in the “social” basket.

Backup plans

We have often discussed the risk of excessive dependence on a third-party platform, in this case Facebook, on which a publisher (or any other business) has little or no influence. We have repeatedly stressed the interest of investing in one’s own platform which serves as a precaution.
This new announcement only confirms this recommendation. And the newsletter, which is a format free from all constraints because it is based on a 100% open protocol (unlike proprietary messaging applications), has more than ever its place in this strategic reflection.

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