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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Facebook News Feed Draws More Criticism

In my column this week, I wrote about how content I shared on Facebook saw a paltry amount of interaction unless I paid Facebook to highlight it on the company’s signature news feed. Other reporters and bloggers said they had seen a similar drop in connection.

On Monday, Facebook put up a blog post saying “engagement has gone up 34 percent on posts from people who have more than 10,000 followers.” But Facebook did not share real numbers or metrics, leaving people guessing what 34 percent actually equals.

Meanwhile, over the weekend my Inbox filled up with dozens of e-mails from people who owned small businesses and said they had also been affected by Facebook’s news feed changes.

BikersPost. The company said it had built most of its business around Facebook, but was now unable to reach its fans. Although Facebook is asking public figures to pay $7 per post to reach their subscribers, BikersPost says it is sometimes being told to pay as much $7,500 to reach the core of its subscribers and their friends.

Kris Olivera, who co-runs BikersPost, said that when his fan page had 200,000 fans, it was getting much more traffic than it doid today with more than 600,000 fans. “After Facebook introduced promoted tweets, we see much less traffic than a year ago,” he said.

In a statement to The New York Times, Facebook said it was not suppressing content to highlight paid posts.

“We want to be really clear that the News Feed algorithm does not artificially suppress free distribution in order to get people to purchase promot! ed posts or ads,” the statement said.

“News Feed should show you the most interesting stories from your friends, people you follow and Pages you are connected to,” the statement added. “As with other filtering algorithms, we look at numerous factors to decide which will be the most interesting story for each person. Over years of carefully monitoring how people engage with News Feed, we have found that algorithmically showing the most relevant content is a better user experience and leads to more engagement over all.”

Mr. Olivera said he paid Facebook to acquire a large percentage of BikersPost’s 615,000 fans.

“I have spent well over $50,000 with Facebook acquiring those fans, and now I’m being told I have to pay Facebook again to reach them,” Mr. Olivera said. “I don’t even make $7,000 a month, how do they expect me to pay that for one single post.” He noted that because he could not reach his fans anymore on Facebook, he recently had to lay off BikersPost’s ony employee.

“We’ve seen dramatic traffic drops over the past year, and the rug just got pulled out from under us,” Mr. Olivera said. “Had I known that we were going to be charged to reach those fans as well, we would of not spent a dime with Facebook.”