Some Canadian news outlets ready to cope with Facebook’s News Feed changes

Social network wants to promote conversation and make time spent on the platform more meaningful

A Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in this file photo. (AP via The Canadian Press)

Some members of Canada’s media industry say they expect to be able to weather the potential setback created by the latest change to Facebook’s content sharing priorities.

The social network recently announced that user feeds will now feature less news and other public content and more of the personal photos and status updates that first fuelled its popularity.

READ MORE: Facebook edits feeds to bring less news, more sharing

Facebook says it made the change in order to promote conversation and make time spent on the platform more meaningful.

As a result, the company says it expects pages that produce what it described as more passive content, including news and pre-edited videos, to receive fewer clicks.

News outlets have frequently used social media to drive traffic to their sites in recent years, but some Canadian organizations say Facebook is just one piece in an increasingly varied puzzle.

Andree Lau, editor-in-chief of HuffPost Canada, said the effect on the industry may be more muted now than if the change had come a few years earlier.

“Media outlets have already seen a big drop in Facebook results due to other algorithm tweaks, so this isn’t a big shock,” Lau said. “We have been adjusting our priorities and strategies long before today’s announcement.”

Facebook’s shift toward promoting conversation plays to the HuffPost’s existing focus, Lau said, adding that the media outlet has always tried to foster discussion among its readers.

Conversation is at the centre of Facebook’s new approach, according to the organization’s explanation for the change.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined the rationale in a Facebook post, saying content from “businesses, brands and media” had begun to crowd out the more personal moments which he said are at the core of the network.

Those personal updates will therefore become more prevalent in user newsfeeds, he said, adding that posts from other sources will still get promoted if they help encourage social interactions.

Those interactions, Zuckerberg said, can be good for a user’s well-being.

“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health,” he wrote. “On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

Zuckerberg said he fully expected some “measures of engagement” to decline as a result of the changes.

The prospect didn’t appear to weigh too heavily on Global News, an early and frequent adopter of Facebook as a distribution channel.

“While we are a dominant news publisher on Facebook, we also employ strategies for diverse social media referral so as not to be dependent on any one source,” said Ron Waksman, vice president of digital and editorial standards and practices for Global News and Corus Radio.

“As a high quality journalistic source that users depend on, we are confident we can weather these changes while continuing to diversify our content streams with strong referrals from other social platforms.”

HuffPost, too, said other platforms are already filling any potential void left in the wake of Facebook’s changes, and said digital products like mobile apps can’t be ignored.

But Gavin Adamson, who teaches digital media courses at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, said outlets will also have to rely on changes in reader behaviour if they hope to make up potential losses caused by Facebook’s new focus.

He said the impact could be “devastating” in certain cases, citing research suggesting some outlets get as much as half their traffic from Facebook.

Organizations with an exclusively digital presence could be especially hard-hit, he added, saying it will be hard to train readers accustomed to using Facebook as an aggregator to make a point of visiting their favourite news sites directly.

“Maybe (news organizations) need to get more involved in community groups and posting news within those groups, or interacting more directly with interest groups within Facebook,” he said.

The outlets themselves, however, say the best way to secure loyal readers is to produce content that will keep them coming back for more.

“Quality journalism remains a key driver of audience, regardless of the distribution channel,” said Lau.

Michelle McQuigge , The Canadian Press

Just Posted

SOGI rally disrupts school board meeting, but business carries on

Chilliwack school board makes statement in support of B.C.-wide gender identity teaching resource

Well-known B.C. magician ready to charm Chilliwack audiences

Shawn Farquhar brings his Cabaret of Wonders magic show back to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Unity Christian the team to beat in 1A basketball

UC’s senior girls are the number one ranked team in B.C., a first in the school’s history.

Woman charged in Abbotsford mall stabbing served time for 2001 killing

Victim in Edmonton killing was stabbed eight times with kitchen knife

Trial date scheduled for man charged with killing Abbotsford officer

Oscar Arfmann slated to go to trial in New Westminster in January 2019

VIDEO: Orcas put on a show near Hornby Island

Louis Jobodin shares photos and video of his experience

Body discovered in burnt out car near Trail

Police report a body was found in the burnt out trunk of a 1999 Honda Civic

UPDATE: Friends mourn boy, 15, killed in Vancouver shooting

John Horgan: ‘No stone is to be left unturned until we find the perpetrator of this heinous crime’

VIDEO: B.C. Lions sign defensive back T.J. Lee to contract for upcoming season

The four-year veteran had a team-high four interceptions and 49 tackles last season with B.C.

How an immigrant to Canada helped Donald Trump prove his mental health

Test that cleared Trump was developed by doctor associated with McGill and Sherbrooke universities

Premier touches on multiple topics ahead of Asia trade trip

Housing and childcare are expected to be the focus of the BC NDP’s first budget in February.

VIDEO: Explorers uncover Canada’s deepest cave in Fernie

The cave, named Bisaro Anima, was confirmed to have broken the record on New Year’s Day

Vernon to host largest Special Olympics B.C. Winter Games in 2019

Games to be held Feb. 21-23, with more than 800 athletes expected to take part

Ex-BC Liberal staffer focused on ‘favourable’ ethnic communities in scandal: lawyer

Former communications director Brian Bonney’s sentencing hearing for breach of trust is underway

Most Read