Viral media and “cabro___s” react to Facebook’s plan to ‘kick them out’.
When the CEO of Little Things said that “Facebook is everything to us“Digiday did not know that in less than two years this model would bring him to closure. Then he was interviewed as the protagonist of a phenomenal growth, protected by his mastery of the algorithm which afterwards he did not know how to overcome. Your company has inaugurated a list of illustrious casualties after the degradation of the visibility of the pages on the platform that other projects highly dependent on it could increase in the coming months.
It is not easy to understand how Little Things, a project based on videos and positive stories of potential virality, cannot survive having almost 13 million followers on Facebook. At least if it is not on the basis that this audience was never yours, as none of those that any company can accumulate there is. They are platform users whose access to one or another content is mediated by changes in a handful of lines of code, which are what make the difference between having traffic or not having it. Between earning money to move forward or closing because it is not acceptable to continue.
Spain Diario or New Code, among the most affected in Spain
In Spain we have not seen any similar case yet, but the change in the Facebook algorithm stresses in one way or another all media traffic structures. Especially in the case of those who obtained many of their users from there, such as New Code, a medium for young people in which David hart Acts as Operations Director: “Over time we have seen how many metrics were reduced despite our followers increasing notably. Currently our Facebook traffic accounts for 50% of the total and in 2015 it reached 80%” .
This publication adds more than two million followers on its page, more than a large part of the traditional informational brands in Spain. But its ability to convert traffic has been reduced, which force to look for other alternatives to try to alleviate the loss. “Especially since 2016 we have been working on other sources and reaching our users to avoid being dependent on any. In our case, there has been significant growth in SEO,” explains Hart.
Spain Diario is in the same process, the national media with the largest number of Spanish followers on Facebook, above recognized brands such as El País or El Mundo. A company spokesperson indicates that it has been lost about 70% of the traffic that the platform provided. At the beginning of the project, this popular newspaper received practically its entire audience from this platform, where it has more than three million followers, to the surprise of its own founders. “We knew that this had an expiration date,” says a spokesperson.
España Diario has lost 70% of the traffic it obtained from Facebook; for New Code it now represents 50%, after having been 80%.
Now Spain Diario receives around 60% of your traffic from Facebook, but at the beginning of the project, in mid-2016, the figure was practically 100%. “We had always contemplated that this could not last and we have been working in other ways,” indicates a source who prefers not to be identified. Refers to boost SEO and also to the increasingly refined exploitation of mobile and desktop alerts as well as newsletters. Audience segmentation is key both for that project and for others in the company that publishes it, due to the ability to convert audience and the higher value of advertising, as explained by that same person.
Other media traditionally well treated by Facebook such as PlayGround or Cabro___ have preferred not to respond or provide figures on the impact of the change. But SimilarWeb estimates the overall drop in its audience around 59% and 38%, respectively, between January and February of this year. These are publications with more than 15 and 11 million followers in each case.
BuzzFeed changes the pace to survive
The importance of Facebook’s turnaround is best understood by looking at the case of the medium that best understood its dynamics over the years. BuzzFeed was the great standard-bearer of distributed content until reality has made him rethink his strategy. Part of his income came from the money he received for the sponsorship of videos and other formats for direct consumption on that social network, and the fall in the visibility of these contents has caused it a growing damage.
This is what partly explains the dismissals made by the company for not reaching the billing targets or the redefinition of its business development model. But the big change is mostly that BuzzFeed you have to change the strategy to turn your websites into a destination point for the user, since every time it commercializes more banners and other traditional advertising spaces. This represents a notable variation on his historical vision of advertising and content consumption, which was already clear with the promotion campaign for your app right after the algorithm change that hurt him was known.
On the other hand, BuzzFeed and other similar publications face another problem in the medium term. According to the projection of eMarketer, the youngest are abandoning Facebook for other platforms and that will only increase. The trend questions the viability of projects based on obtaining millennial traffic based on virals, memes and other content of that type from that platform. Some of the defectors find accommodation on Instagram, also owned by Facebook, but whose current operating scheme is nor allows you to get nowhere near a similar number of clicks.
Worse press, better monetization
Mathew Ingram, a media and platform analyst currently writing for Columbia Journalism Review, speaks of “love-hate” when describing the relationship between Facebook and the media. “They know they need the platform to achieve a potential audience of 2 billion people and that is hard to resist. But at the same time Facebook is one of the reasons why they have serious financial problems, taking away a large part of digital advertising, “he explains.
Where Ingram clearly speaks of imbalance in the way both parties try to cooperate, Little Things CEO I thought I saw a collaboration on an equal footing: “We need you for the traffic, you need us for the content,” he said in a Wall Street Journal podcast in 2016. The reality has turned out to be different.
In Hart’s opinion, “Facebook tries to give the user the best possible experience and has realized that it was not doing so.” The change in the algorithm that condemns pages to less visibility has as its origin the desire for users to pass less time but better quality on the platform, according to Zuckerberg. But the truth is that the ability of social networks to positively or negatively influence society It is an increasingly hot topic and Facebook is also concerned about the escalation of negative publicity due to the role attributed to it in spreading fake news.
“We need them for the traffic, they need us for the content,” said the CEO of Little Things in 2016. The reality has turned out to be different.
In spite of everything, the restriction of the free reach of the media has resulted in a rebound in the price of advertising on the platform, which guarantees you higher income. The reliance on Facebook media to compete against the official meter used by agencies to plan advertiser budgets means that many of them buy traffic by promoting their content. The result is that investments increase and a large part of the sector inflates its audience figures with readers that it does not really have to aspire to a greater part of the advertising pie or not lose part of the one it does have. Industry sources speak of Spanish media that invest up to 70,000 euros per month in this practice.
What many media have done to try to retain visibility with as many users as possible is to create explanatory videos so that they know how to make your posts a priority. That way, anyone on Facebook can indicate that they want to preferentially view updates to a page over the algorithmic selection of the rest of the content.
The end of incentives for questionable content
Beyond the lost traffic, one of the keys to Facebook’s decision is that discourages content creation that traditionally were made with that platform as a destination, and that apparently now tries to stop. Headlines with hooks that are vaguely respectful of the content they hide (clickbait), stories with viral potential or memes have been losing visibility in recent times, while the social network try to get users to help you to determine which media are valuable sources of information.
“Nobody knows what the criteria by which Facebook determines which media offer quality content will consist of, so it is difficult to guess who will benefit from the change,” says Ingram. Lack of transparency It is one of the biggest criticisms of the media towards the platform, which in turn tries to show commitment to information by enhancing the visibility of local content or with training programs.
In that race, Facebook has remained stagnant with respect to Google, which has turned its relationship with the media through your journalism project funding program or your new project to help subscribe publications. The perspective of the sector before both in Spain is radically different from that of a few years ago, when Google closed its news service in Spain after a rate promoted by AEDE (today Association of Information Media) while Facebook enjoyed all the sympathy for facilitate massive amounts of traffic for the media.