Fears that changes to Facebook algorithm would harm news publishers appear to have been misplaced, according to new research.
On 29 June the social media giant changed its rules so that posts from friends and family were prioritised over posts from publishers. And on 4 August it made changes intended to punish misleading clickbait style headlines.
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Ezyinsights has published research from ten leading news publishers which appears to show that the changes had no impact on their Facebook reach. It looked at Metro, Channel 4 News, Huffington Post UK, BBC News, The Guardian, ITC Central, ITV News, BBC News and Sky News, The Telegraph and the Independent.
It counted a total of 3m daily Facebook engagements from these publishers (likes, reactions, shares and comments) per day in April 2016 versus 7m per day in October this year.
Ezyinsights head of innovation Steve El-Sharaway told Journalism.co.uk: “The Friends and Family change was, initially, a concern for publishers who feared a fall in referrals, but despite the change, engagement levels have risen.
“In effect, Facebook said a publisher’s audience sharing its stories would be valued more highly than a publisher sharing that same content itself, no matter how many Facebook fans it may have.
“Despite publishers’ fears, that seems to have benefited them. People love sharing news and trust it more when it’s shared by friends, so it does make sense. Publishers’ content might not appear as frequently in their fans’ feeds, but people sharing content seems to have helped, partially at least, to fill the void.”
The research suggests that much of the increased Facebook engagement for news publishers is coming from Facebook Live videos.