26 Oct'17

Facebook experiments with separating publisher content from users’ newsfeed


The publisher content only feed on Facebook is called the ‘Explore Feed’, which includes news stories from publishers a Facebook user does not follow, in the aim to broaden users’ news sources and items. Facebook confirmed this to TechCrunch with the statement, ‘We are beginning to roll out a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, automatically customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them.’


The BBC stated that in six countries, Facebook are testing having all publisher content (whether you follow them or not) in the ‘Explore Feed’ so that users’ news feed are only posts from friends and family. The BBC summaries this ‘in other words, if you want to have your material seen in the place most users spend their time will have to pay for the privilege’.


To not be on users’ main feed could be detrimental to publishers’ especially as Recode report that the Explore Feed is ‘buried on the left hand rail on Facebook’s web version, or in the “Explore” tab on the iOS app’.


One of the countries this was being tested in was Slovakia. The journalist Filip Struhárik tweeted that as a result of Facebook’s experiment they experienced the ‘Biggest drop in organic reach we’ve ever seen. Pages have 4 times less interactions, reach fell by two-thirds’.


While some consumers are optimistic about the Explore Feed, others are not:


WIRED proposed an alternative view to the Explore Feed being a tool for Facebook to charge publishers. They suggested that it may be an attempt to ‘tackle criticisms of its [Facebook’s] influence on the US presidential election in November 2016 and the widespread suggestions of fake news’.


Responding to the opposition to the ‘Explore Feed’, Facebook released a statement on their blog: ‘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. There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore.’


Although Facebook state that there is ‘no current plan to roll this out beyond the test countries or charge pages’, this experiment demonstrates that the concept has been devised which would change the online environment for publishers, especially small publishers.