One publisher stopped posting to Facebook to see what impact it would have on web traffic. This Digiday article is an interesting read as to how publishers (and brands) might experiment in a post-Facebook world. The result is fewer people reading more articles and spending longer on site, in other words all of the viral traffic disappeared. Which doesn’t really provide an upside as you’d presume the non-Facebook audience were already visitors.
In recent months sites like Funny Or Die, Cracked, BuzzFeed, VICE Media and Mashable have either pivoted away from web content, missed target earnings, had to lay off staff or in the case of the latter sold for a fraction of what is was previously worth. If new media can’t make money from web content then who can?
The problem might not just be entirely Facebook’s fault. It’s all of us. Think of how much content exists for publishers to now compete with; brand content, influencer videos, blogger posts even LinkedIn articles – the internet is infinite, but our time isn’t. One thing the Digiday experiment shows is that viral content doesn’t build long term loyalty and relying too much on one platform is not the way forward. While brands view content as a step to a product purchase, for publishers content is the product. For publishers I don’t know how to square that circle and there are better people than me trying to solve it. For brands, it’s consistency and channel diversification that offer more sustainable long term paths to growth.
How things have changed. Up until a few years ago algorithm changes on social platforms only resulted in users bitching about the change until they forgot what the change was. Today social platforms have matured to the point that changes in algorithms now result in job losses. Just not at Facebook.