Common Misconceptions About Facebook News Feed Changes
CNN, BBC News and The New York Times Outperform Fox News and Daily Mail in Web Shares
During the summer 2018 a rumour went out that Facebook News Feed changes support conservative, right wing publishers and sensational journalism, such the Fox News, Daily Wire and Daily Mail.
It started with a tweet by an influential tech journalist who pointed out that after Facebook had promised to support quality journalism, Daily Mail’s engagement had grown and Fox News was the biggest news page on Facebook (as referred in Slate). His conclusions were based on data from a period of one month in the spring of 2018. Later on, he deleted the tweet.
Those familiar with the publishing landscape already know that Fox News is the biggest news page on Facebook by far – tens of times bigger than others. Thus, the fact that it is still the biggest news page after the News Feed changes does not mean that Facebook has prioritised it. In fact, Fox News’ Facebook engagement per day has dropped by 200K from autumn 2017. It went from 1M engagements per day to 800K.
On the other hand, Daily Mail’s Facebook Page engagement has dropped drastically and suddenly in comparison to other publishers. Daily Mail Facebook Page’s engagement plummeted in January-February 2018. It has somewhat recovered since then: so there is growth when looking at the spring months.
Quality Publishers’ Content is Shared Most and the Trend is Up
Almost all publishers’ Facebook Pages are losing engagement for various reasons related to the News Feed changes, such as purges of fake accounts and prioritisation of content shared by friends.
However, the majority of English language quality news publishers are going up in Web Shares. This means links to publishers’ content shared by anyone across Facebook – for example with friends and in Facebook groups.
In terms of Web Shares, BBC News is the biggest news publisher by far. CNN comes second, and The New York Times is generally on the same level as Fox News.
BBC News’ Web Shares have grown the most, and the trend is upwards for nearly everybody, but Daily Mail is an anomaly. Their Web Shares have dropped drastically since May 2018.
Facebook announced that Pages’ visibility in the News Feed will be cut down in order to improve user experience and spread of reliable news. Many feared that this will actually result in engagement losses for quality news publishers, and prioritisation of content that is not based on facts but like-mindedness.
The data shows that while most publishers’ Facebook Pages have suffered, quality news publishers’ content is now getting more Web Shares. Especially publishers such as CNN and BBC News have benefited from the new situation.
Publishers whose Facebook Pages took biggest hits often relied heavily on clickable posts in their distribution strategy. One of these is Daily Mail. Similar pages that have also been hit hard in other countries include PlayGround in Spain, Epoch Times in France and USA, and the tabloid Bild in Germany.
Generally, publishers’ visibility is shifting from Facebook Pages (and metrics such as Reach) to Web Shares. Quality publishers stand to gain most from this change.
By Varpu Rantala
Read more about Facebook News Feed changes in EzyInsights Knowledge Base
Cover Image: CNN Newsroom by Charles Atkeison, Wikimedia Commons
Data: EzyInsights Intelligence