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February 28, 2018

US digital publisher Little Things becomes first major casualty of ‘catastrophic’ Facebook News Feed changes

By Charlotte Tobitt

US digital publisher Little Things has become the first major casualty of Facebook News Feed’s latest algorithm changes, describing them in a memo to staff as “catastrophic” and “beyond dire”.

Little Things, which publishes stories and videos aimed at women, has a huge dependency on Facebook, with 12m likes compared to 93,000  followers on Instagram and 6,000 on Twitter.

The website announced on Tuesday that it would be permanently closing its doors effective immediately, according to Business Insider. This is despite it receiving offers in early February to merge with a larger media group.

The latest Facebook algorithm changes, which prioritise posts from friends and family over publishers, saw Little Things quickly drop in organic and influencer traffic of more than 75 per cent, it said in the memo.

Joe Speiser, co-founder and chief executive of Little Things, and Gretchen Tibbits, president and chief operating officer, called Facebook’s algorithm change “catastrophic” and “the last straw”.

The website previously faced large setbacks in August last year, but was then able to “quickly right the ship” with new revenue streams, they said.

The memo read: “No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation. The position it put us in was beyond dire.

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“The businesses looking to acquire Little Things got spooked and promptly exited the sale process, leaving us in jeopardy of our bank debt covenants and ultimately bringing an expedited end to our incredible story.

“What happens to the Little Things brand, we all know and love, is uncertain at this point. It’s my deep hope that we can find a way to resurrect it and reemerge from the ashes with a new will, but that may take many months.”

The memo promised that wages would be paid to its 100 staff and said the site and its social media channels would not shut down immediately to keep readers informed.

Announcing the algorithm change last month, Facebook said: “Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg said the changes were part of a shift in focus to prioritise “meaningful social interactions”.

Experts have described the changes as “deeply significant” for publishers with Adweek in the US describing it as the “digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb” for the media industry.

Press Gazette has contacted Little Things for comment.

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