Media companies lived through many tough algorithmic changes over the last 2 to 3 years. They benefitted a very select few publishers, but it mostly hurt everyone else. I still don’t know what sort of black magic BoredPanda employs when they push out a 15 paged article with tremendous organic reach. Anyway, facebook’s at it again, and there’s a very obvious clue that it’s more serious this time.
Most pubs will say that they’ve heard it all before: been there, done that, got the F8 hoodie. But the part that should really scare them–scare us–is this paragraph:
Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.
For one, that signals a change in the company’s top-level KPIs. Facebook focused on bringing people to the platform and keeping them there as long as possible. I think the KPI has changed from user engagement (as measured in time spent on the platform) to something more subtle like engagement with friends and family.
Facebook knows it’s going to lose money.
Although it claims that the value of their ad buys will increase, I just don’t see how that is possible. For one, if you take out public page posts from the feeds but only leave sponsored posts in, then they will stick out like a sore thumb–like a display ad!
CTRs will undoubtedly drop when people realize that anything not posted by their friends is probably an ad buy. Perhaps that will be offset by the general scarcity of content on Facebook, but either way, the arbitrage play on FB will be less attractive. This means less traffic for media companies, and less money they are willing to spend on FB.
Although I hate to admit it, Zuckerberg is making the right long-term play. It will ultimately limit the size to which FB can grow, but it just might avoid tough EU regulations, dodge fake-news accusations, and begin to rebuild goodwill with the public.
Let’s assume that Zuckerberg holds to his word and the changes are as apocalyptic as I profess. Let’s also assume that people’s demand for
shitty, clickbaity easy-to-consume content will drop off a little, but some demand will remain. People will still want to read about celebrities getting fat and cheating on each other. They will want to read “inspirational, body-positive” content about some big, sassy woman who loves her body. They will continue to watch idiot dogs (cats, goats, people…) do idiot things. … you get the idea.
So if the demand for easy-to-consume content remains, but Facebook won’t provide them with their fix, where will they turn to? What did they do before?
Youtube – Perhaps more people will turn to youtube again. But as much as media companies touted video as the next big thing, I still think that articles will remain the most consumed medium. Speaking of which…
Medium – A new player to the game that might really gain out of this latest change. They have facebook/youtube like platform made specifically for the written word. Still, the platform seems to be too high-brow, articulate, and intelligent for “easy-to-consume” (short-form) content. But it has a feed, it can push content, and it already has publishers (albeit a bit too reputable).
Google – Google will remain as the platform of last resort. If you don’t get your fix of anonymous hands baking with gas-station-purchasable ingredients, then you will search for it.
Flipboard, Messenger, Instagram, Snap, Musically…. What do you think?
You can read Zuckerberg’s Post here.