Facebook Thinks You Probably Don’t Need To See This
By Matt Algren. June 14, 2012, 12:03 PM CDT
Time was, if you clicked the “like” button on a Facebook page, the page’s posts were automatically served to your Facebook news feed. That was the point of “liking” a page — for the more internet-capable, it was touted as a replacement for RSS. But just as Facebook now tries to automate the publication of your internet reading habits, the company has been steadily moving toward letting a computer decide which posts you want to see, most recently with late May’s unannounced functionality change. At this point, even if you adjust your Facebook newsfeed to display all posts in chronological order instead of their default computer-selected “Top Stories,” you don’t get all the posts. In fact, you can’t get all the posts.
Instead, Facebook has decided that you really only want to see information from a Facebook page if you regularly and aggressively interact with that page, through clicking on, commenting on, reposting, or “liking” posts. If you just note internally what they posted without physically acting on it or if you only physically interact with posts you care about, Facebook’s algorithm decides that you don’t really like that page after all and stops alerting you to any of the page’s activity. And it does that without telling you that anything has changed.
That’s a problem for users and publishers alike. After all, users did what Facebook told them to do to get updates and now they aren’t getting the benefit that Facebook told them they would get. Facebook changed the rules to a pay-to-post system without bothering to tell its over 900 million users that any change has happened. In other words, Facebook has quietly placed a barrier between publishers and their audience.
Of course, Facebook will gladly remove that barrier for publishers who are willing to pay a hefty fee. The current going rate is slightly more than half a penny per post per user. And to be clear, “user” means people who already like a certain page, not the general Facebook population.
That price doesn’t sound so bad until you start crunching numbers. A friend of mine edits a sociopolitical news magazine that publishes four or five articles per day, which is pretty standard for a medium-sized site. He has about 18,000 Facebook fans, most or all of whom “liked” his page to get an update every time he publishes a new article. And that’s how it was until the new policy went into place. Now, his Facebook posts are only being seen by around 20-30 percent of his audience. The unannounced change cost him around 25 percent of his site’s traffic, and to put his posts back in front of people who already asked to see them would cost over $100,000 per year. For a publisher that size, Facebook may as well have consulted Dr. Evil for the price.
You know what I wonder? If a publisher pays to get a post to his entire audience, does Facebook charge for that 20-30 percent that would have seen it organically according to Facebook’s algorithm? If so, who counts those beans, Facebook or an outside company that doesn’t stand to gain by not splitting out organic viewers from paid viewers?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course.
(Want to see all of a page’s posts? Here’s a detailed guide from Always Upward, the site that has been on top of this story. It’s a laughably complicated, anti-user pain in the kiester, but right now, it’s the only way to get back to the functionality of two weeks ago. Why not start with Techcitement’s Facebook page?)
About Matt Algren
Matt is a self-taught tinkerer who's fallen madly in love with social media and neato Android stuff. He writes on an eight-year-old computer that constantly freezes up on him, leading him to teach the neighborhood kids many new swear words when he has his windows open. He's probably eating chocolate ice cream in his home in Southwest Ohio right now. It's delicious.