Today, Facebook announced that it’s tweaking its algorithm so that users see less stuff shared by publishers and brands and more stuff from friends and family.
This isn’t a nightmare scenario for publishers, but it’s pretty grim; websites and news organizations are leaning more and more on Facebook for growing their audiences, and Facebook just weakened a key traffic driver for them.
But don’t listen to me, here’s what other people in media are saying:
it’s almost like facebook *enjoys* playing ramsey bolton-esque games with publishers https://t.co/9u9Y6Us7ZN— alyssa bereznak (@alyssabereznak) June 29, 2016
Reading Facebook’s “News Feed Values” makes me wonder if Facebook uses Facebook https://t.co/eDqFSzgq2e— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) June 29, 2016
Lucy lines up the football for Charlie Brown one more time https://t.co/KTFtlAZW1v— Michael Roston (@michaelroston) June 29, 2016
This makes it sounds like Facebook was caught cheating oh wait pic.twitter.com/WOW1ENgP8E— Silvia Killingsworth (@silviakillings) June 29, 2016
The sound of every reporter donning a Chewbacca mask https://t.co/wRKJXa40Vl— Hunter Walk (@hunterwalk) June 29, 2016
This isn’t even the first time this year that Facebook has changed the way it drives traffic to publishers, but it’s a demonstration of precisely why people are so afraid of Facebook.
When Facebook last year rolled out Instant Articles, its direct-to-Facebook publishing tool, people were initially apprehensive but everyone eventually began joining in. The Washington Post, for example, started pushing all of its content to Instant Articles.
For such publishers, today’s announcement reflects the risk of making your distribution reliant on a third-party platform. Though Facebook says places making content that’s truly viral — the stuff that gets shared ad nauseam by your friends and family — won’t be penalized, that’s small comfort. But if publishers are still interested in giving Facebook money to promote their content, then Facebook would be delighted for them to keep spending their dollars on Facebook.
Important distinction: publisher organic reach will go down but this does not affect PAID reach. Facebook will happily take your ad spend— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) June 29, 2016
So what are publishers thinking?
I’ve reached out to representatives at Politico, Vice, Gawker Media, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post and Politico to ask how this affects their editorial strategy, or their relationship with Facebook. I’ll let you know when I hear back.
Representatives for the Washington Post and Mic declined to comment. A spokesperson for Vox Media* provided the following statement:
All eight of the Vox Media brands have a strong presence across many platforms, and we are strategic in reaching audiences wherever they are. Facebook is a valued partner and we'll continue to work closely with them as they evolve their products.
Here’s a statement from New York Times spokesperson Jordan Cohen:
We appreciate Facebook's transparency and we intend to closely monitor this situation. We very much value our audience on Facebook. Still, while we are not yet in a position to forecast exactly what the change will mean to us, our subscription model and levels of direct traffic make us less dependent on Facebook than some other publishers.
And here’s what the guy who does social media for Mother Jones told me on Twitter:
* Vox Media is the parent company of Recode.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.