Facebook move could suggest separate News Feed for publishers

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 18 January 2018

Media agency execs are predicting that Facebook's News Feed update will pre-empt the arrival of a separate feed for publisher content, which was recently tested overseas.

Facebook trialled the separate feed in October, rolling out the ‘Explore Feed’ in six countries: Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia.

News and other publisher content were siphoned into the Explore Feed, while the main News Feed was reserved for messages from friends and families, unless a publisher paid to move into the primary News Feed.

One exec, who wished to remain anonymous so could speak freely, says that he doesn’t believe Facebook will ever completely rid the platform of publisher content, but he expects the separate feed to roll-out shortly.

“Mark Zuckerberg is a smart guy and he isn’t going to make this move without a contingency plan,” he says.

“Facebook could charge more for the Explore Feed as it will place ads next to professionally-generated content. Having two different types of audiences in two separate locations isn’t a bad move for Facebook.”

In an opinion today, Unruly MD Ricky Chanana says a separate feed could be a welcome change to publishers.

"The content viewed by users on this separate publisher-generated content section could well attract far more engagement than the passive viewing you currently get in one News Feed," he says, adding that publishers could be charged higher CPC and CPM rates for engaged readers.

Another exec, who is an expert in mobile and digital, says Facebook is simply going back to its roots, and refocusing on the friends and family content that has slipped away in recent years - and that the Explore Feed will allow its main feed to shift back to its core values.

While she acknowledges that publishers' reach will decline again if the Explore Feed is put in place, she agrees it makes sense for Facebook.

“Instead of the News Feed changes, Facebook should have just announced the Explore Feed and got it over with,” she says.

Both execs are close to the matter and continue to deal directly with Facebook.

At the time of the Explore Feed trial, a Facebook spokeswoman said it had no plans to roll it out globally.

In Slovakia, where the Explore Feed trial ran, online blog publisher Medium revealed that interactions with mainstream media fell by almost 50% year-on-year over a three-month period.

Medium’s own traffic decreased 3% in November and nearly 6% in December 2017. Google overtook Facebook as its main source of traffic.

Medium’s data, which can be viewed here, concluded that Pages are spreading their posts in a more targeted way to core fans, but it’s harder to reach people outside of their bubbles. Therefore, the reach, engagement, interactions and consumption has fallen dramatically.

Publically, Australian publishers are calm about the impact of Facebook's recent changes, with most welcoming the move as it stands to combat fake news, but a completely separate feed could cause further tension between the media industry and Facebook.

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