A few months ago, Facebook announced that it would provide higher priority to “news articles” or “articles of higher content”. They also decreased the number of people a Facebook Page would have the ability to reach, effectively forcing Facebook Page owners “pay-to-play” — pay Facebook to have more of their own fans see their content.
While some argue that Facebook made this subtle but significant change to increase it’s short-term bottom line, squeezing a few extra dollars out of Facebook Page owners, Facebook made a much longer bet on the type of information people are willing to see in their News Feeds. Over the past year, content providers such as UpWorthy, Buzzfeed, BusinessInsider, and ViralNova have perfected the art of shareable information. This information is not designed for consumption. It has been created for people to share on Facebook and Twitter. Sharing boosts the distribution of content and makes it more likely for people to leave a social network to a website. The website owner, of course, earns revenue from display ads, video ads, and potentially native ads.
Facebook noticed. The algorithm change punishes “low-quality” websites and makes it less likely that users will see information shared from them. Facebook made this change for one main reason — time spent on Facebook, not to extract additional advertising dollars from page owners, though that may be a side benefit. The social network rarely makes changes that benefit its advertisers over its users. In its ten-year history, Facebook has repeatedly argued that it prioritizes the needs of its users before the needs of its advertisers. A strong user base, of course, strengthens the value of the advertising platform. During the surge of viral, click-bait, style headlines in the Newsfeed, Facebook must have noticed that people were leaving the site or app. Not necessarily to view the content but because they found the content in their newsfeed irrelevant. Facebook, like Twitter and Google, have little problem directing their users to other content around the Internet. As long as they control the entrance to other content, the company can monetize.