Facebook prioritized content from users’ friends and family in its January announcement of a News Feed change. This algorithm alteration appears to have usurped a previous priority of the social media giant — when it paid publishers and influencers millions to create original Facebook Live content. Facebook Watch seems to reign now.
While Digiday ran a somewhat hopeful headline on Feb. 28 — “Despite Subsidies Disappearing, Some Publishers See Hope for Facebook Live Post-Algorithm Change” — its coverage was the polar opposite of that from the Columbia Journalism Review on Feb. 23.
In a 1,428-word article posted to the Columbia Journalism Review, Pete Brown of the Tow Center predicts that without content from publishers, who are unhappy with its monetization, “Live as a news product is well on its way to the scrapheap.”
As for Brown’s authority on the subject, he runs the Content Analysis Hub for the Publishers and Platforms project at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.
Brown writes that the following’s happened since 2016, when Facebook prioritized Live’s original content:
“The number of Facebook Live videos produced by paid partners more than halved by the end of 2017 — and in one case fell by as much as 94 percent — as once guaranteed payments ended and Facebook deprioritized the product, new Tow Center research suggests.
“In an analysis of 17 brands that were paid by Facebook to make live videos for the platform, the number published from April to December 2017 fell by an average of 51 percent when compared to the 12-month period from April 2016 to March 2017.”
While this may be true for paid partners, Facebook’s Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, seems to contradict the concept that Facebook Live is a lowered priority at the company. In the announcement on Jan. 11 about the News Feed algorithm change, he writes:
“What types of Page posts will show higher in News Feed?
“Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed. For example, live videos often lead to discussion among viewers on Facebook — in fact, live videos on average get six times as many interactions as regular videos. Many creators who post videos on Facebook prompt discussion among their followers, as do posts from celebrities. In Groups, people often interact around public content. Local businesses connect with their communities by posting relevant updates and creating events. And news can help start conversations on important issues.
“Using ‘engagement-bait’ to goad people into commenting on posts is not a meaningful interaction, and we will continue to demote these posts in News Feed.”
Digiday’s Tim Peterson writes that even though Facebook stopped paying publishers and cut their organic reach, at least one publisher is seeing the quality of his audience increase. Therefore, Cyrus Ghahremani, head of live programming at Turner’s Super Deluxe says his company will continue to produce one brand-sponsored live video a week, despite the algorithm cutting his organic views in half.
That’s because while Super Deluxe’s live viewership has fallen, its engagement rates have risen, and Facebook, along with brands, is prioritizing engagement.
“Generally speaking, engagements mean a lot more than views, especially with different standards of what counts as a view,” said Gabe Gordon, managing partner at Reach Agency. “Someone interacting or engaging with a piece of content is always going to mean more. If you’re driving people to purchase or click on something, any form of engagement is always going to be valued over reaching someone passively.”
In December, Digiday called Facebook Live “a dud.”
And in the CJR post, Brown credits Facebook itself with making Live a less desirable tool. Last year, “Live swiftly fell out of favor and ‘longer, premium video content’ became the new priority. Watch, the platform’s video on demand service, has become Facebook’s video product du jour.” (Facebook announced “Watch” in August.)
Performing a quick comparison between Facebook Live and Facebook Watch on Monday, Target Marketing found on Watch that more than 3.8 million people watched “The Oscars: All Access — Backstage” and about a half million users each watched two other versions of the official Academy Awards broadcasts live-streamed on the social media network.
Clicking on the Facebook Live icon showed the most popular videos there with a few thousand views each.
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Facebook ‘Watch’ Is Like TV, and It’s a Thing Marketers Want