June 30, 2016 Last Updated 3:14 pm

Facebook does the right thing, looks after its own customers

Some media observers decry the impact the changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm might have on publishers who believed the social network had their best interests at heart

Some in the publishing world yesterday lost it a bit when they found out that their newest love interest, Facebook, just wasn’t that into them. Facebook plans to put their members ahead of publishers, changing the social network’s News Feed algorithm to boost posts shared by “friends” over that of the pages produced by their partner publishers. Oh the horror.

It took me 24 hours to stop laughing.

FB-newsfeed-206“We previously made an update that tries to ensure that stories posted directly by the friends you care about, such as photos, videos, status updates or links, will be higher up in News Feed so you are less likely to miss them,” wrote Lars Backstrom, Engineering Director at Facebook.

“We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about. For people with many connections this is particularly important, as there are a lot of stories for them to see each day. So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.”

This is a smart move. Facebook is a social network, so the fact that the company would decide to not tamper with this concept is logical.

“Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family. That is still the driving principle of News Feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook,” said Adam Mosseri, VP, Product Management, News Feed.

This all makes sense, right? So, why would publishers, or at least media observers who say they represent publishers, be upset.

“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages. The specific impact on your Page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience,” Backstrom wrote.

Facebook has become the next thing, the third party vendor that will save the day for traditional publishers struggling with digital. It makes sense, in a way – with so many publishers deciding that the future is audience aggregation and monetization, not advertising, they need ever increasing numbers of eyeballs. Facebook promised them these eyeballs.

Meanwhile, I should remind those same media companies that neither Google nor Facebook is moving in this direction. In fact, they are being far more traditional than the tradition media companies. Yes, they want larger audience, but onlyo so that this audience can be sold to advertisers. Wow, how old fashioned! Bet Google and Facebook will be out of business within the year.

Does this mean that Facebook can’t be trusted to have publishers best interests at heart? Duh. Didn’t publishers learn anything from their experiences with Apple?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not against working with any of the big tech companies or social networks. The creation of the Newsstand by Apple should have lit a few light bulbs over the heads of publishing executives, but they were too stubborn to even consider digital editions as a viable product. The goal should have been to create great digital editions, just as they say they want to create great print editions, then find a way to make sure their distribution and sales channels were secure and sustainable. Instead, they just went for the next shiny thing – Google or Facebook, it doesn’t matter. Cheap and easy wins the day in most cases.

I am still a big believer in digital editions. Why? Because the reaction from publishers to their success with them reminds me of what publishers said of their first websites: we’re not making money, screw ’em, we’ll stick to print, the Internet is going away (if you are not old enough to have been in the business in the ’90s you may be surprised that people really did say stupid things like that).

I guess too many journalists have never managed a P&L, because if they had they would know that the monthly habit of having to look at one sobers one to “the next shiny thing” – it makes you realize that the small bump you got last month from something has to be sustainable because you will be budgeting against it next year.

Depending on third parties to provide your next incremental lift is a dangerous thing, as some are discovering now. Learn and more on.

In other Facebook news: Facebook’s own news aggregation app, Paper, will shutdown, according to several reports.

Facebook shutdown Creative Labs,which built Paper, so the move is not a total surprise. Also, Facebook had brought in some of the ideas into its main app.

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