Facebook just sent a chill over every digital news organization

A less newsy news feed.
A less newsy news feed.
Image: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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Facebook is teaching media organizations a valuable lesson in not putting all their eggs in one basket.

Today (June 29), the world’s largest social network announced a change to its news feed algorithm that will show its 1.65 billion monthly active users more posts from friends and family. The tweak also means that articles posted by news organizations, which have grown dependent on Facebook for traffic and ad revenue, won’t feature as prominently on users’ news feeds.

The latest update dramatically alters Facebook’s relationship with news organizations. Almost since its inception, the social network has cozied up to publishers, encouraging them to embrace new features on Facebook.

Last May, Facebook launched instant articles, stories that news organizations publish directly to the social network. The company said these articles would load faster and provide a better overall reading experience for its users. But some publishers were hesitant about instant articles, concerned that people wouldn’t visit their websites.

More recently, Facebook signed contracts with media organizations, including the New York Times, CNN, BuzzFeed, and Mashable, paying them to broadcast live videos on the social network. But the latest update to the news feed algorithm will affect all content, including links and live video, posted by publishers, according to the New York Times.

With fewer people going directly to news sites, media organizations have relied heavily on Facebook for traffic. Just as social media editors meticulously dissect elements of popular stories to understand why they perform well on Facebook, they also worry about how updates to the news feed will affect the visibility of their posts. Facebook, which drives more than 40% of referral traffic to publishers, said that many sites will see a “noticeable“ drop in traffic.