The Impact of Facebook’s Algorithm Change, in 5 Charts

Last week, Facebook dropped a stink bomb in the media locker room when it announced that its algorithm would start prioritizing the posts of friends and family in the News Feed over those of publishers. Folks started to panic, with good reason—over 40 percent of publisher traffic comes from Facebook.

But according to new data from BuzzSumo, one of our favorite social media analytics tools, publishers have been feeling the pain for some time. BuzzSumo reviewed over 25 million Facebook posts from the top 10,000 brands over the past year, and the results were pretty fascinating. Let’s break it down.

1. Average shares have been falling since January

Do you guys remember January? Sure, the weather sucked, but in medialand, it was a pretty magical time. Instant Articles worked brilliantly and delivered an ad revenue boost to publishers, Facebook aided publishers’ Facebook Live videos with push notifications, and Facebook’s algorithm gave publishers so much love.

But Facebook shares—a decent barometer for organic reach—have fallen ever since. As with most algorithm changes, this one had probably been coming for some time.

2. Link posts are doing even worse

One prevailing assumption over the past year is that Facebook has been prioritizing Instant Articles and video posts in the algorithm over posts with external links, which take the user outside of Facebook’s walls. This appears to be true. The average shares for link posts have been practically cut in half since last summer.

3. Photo posts are down too

Did you know that photo posts by publishers on Facebook were still a thing? Apparently they are.

4. In response, publishers are posting more videos than ever

Facebook has been pushing video really hard, going as far as to pay publishers and influencers $50 million to create videos for Facebook Live.

In June, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, went as far as to predict that Facebook would be “all video” in five years. Not surprisingly, publishers have been investing heavily in video. Mashable famously laid off 30 editorial staffers this spring as it moved away from text, choosing instead to put all resources behind video.

5. Video appears to be Facebook’s saving grace, but that’s kind of a problem

Videos from publishers still get a ton of shares on Facebook, even if that figure did drop a bit from the January love-fest high point.

The problem, of course, is that it’s really hard to make money from Facebook videos. Although Facebook announced a revenue-sharing program over a year ago, publishers are reportedly earning very little, aside from the select few Facebook decided to pay with the $50 million war chest.

“We’re making so little from Facebook video that the finance team doesn’t even share it in the monthly reports,” a top media executive told Digiday.

By comparison, link posts (which drive traffic to publishers’ sites) and Instant Articles (which contain lucrative ads) are much easier to monetize. There lies the problem: Publishers can go with the trend and invest in Facebook video, but they’re gambling that it’ll pay off eventually. In that way, Facebook is starting to feel like a virtual Foxwoods. The table games might change, but the house always wins.

Image by Getty

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