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this story is part of the 25-29 Dec 2017 Weekly Hindsight Read the hindsight

Facebook deals a cruel blow to Slovak media

Ria Gehrerová recommended by Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia

Facebook's experimental Explore Feed, currently tested in Slovakia, has caused a drastic decrease in impressions and interactions for the fanpages of many media outlets. Meanwhile, pages that propagate conspiracy theories prosper.

Slovakia Smoke signals

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Facebook's experimental Explore Feed -- currently tested in six countries, among them Slovakia -- has caused a dramatical decrease in impressions and interactions for the fanpages of many media outlets. Meanwhile, pages that propagate conspiracy theories prosper.

All fanpage posts are now moved to Explore Feed. If media outlets want their post to be visible in the main feed again, they have to pay for sponsored posts.

These changes have complicated the situation of the media that used to gain most of their traffic from Facebook. During the first week after the changes were implemented, standard media were in panic because the reach of their Facebook fanpages dropped by 52%. This has been confirmed by the latest figures -- standard media suffered much more than so-called "conspiracy" media, which lost 13% of traffic only.

Journalist Filip Struhárik compared the interactions (likes, shares and comments) on Facebook profiles of the two types of media. He found out that while standard media continued to attract low traffic, conspiracy media started to regain their audience after three weeks.

The good news is that total website traffic to standard media did not drop much. Most titles lost only about 3% of traffic, yet others -- more than 15%.

We are still unsure of Facebook management's intentions. The changes could be temporary or permament.

The spokespeople of the corporations cannot provide media in the countries testing Explore Feed with information -- an overall unsurprising but disquieting lack of transparency on behalf of the world's largest online platform. 

Details from the story:

  • Explore Feed is tested in six countries -- Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia.
  • Two months after the launch of Explore Feed, conspiracy media are more successful in getting back the attention of their Facebook users than standard media.
  • Explore Feed is constantly changing. Sometimes, the main feed is back to showing posts from unsponsored fanpages. Other times, it shows posts from profiles the user did not subscribe to.
  • The regional spokespeople of Facebook are usually too busy or unable to answer the journalists questions.

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