Some Canadian news outlets ready to cope with Facebook’s News Feed changes

Social network wants to promote conversation and make time spent on the platform more meaningful

A Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in this file photo. (AP via The Canadian Press)

Some members of Canada’s media industry say they expect to be able to weather the potential setback created by the latest change to Facebook’s content sharing priorities.

The social network recently announced that user feeds will now feature less news and other public content and more of the personal photos and status updates that first fuelled its popularity.

READ MORE: Facebook edits feeds to bring less news, more sharing

Facebook says it made the change in order to promote conversation and make time spent on the platform more meaningful.

As a result, the company says it expects pages that produce what it described as more passive content, including news and pre-edited videos, to receive fewer clicks.

News outlets have frequently used social media to drive traffic to their sites in recent years, but some Canadian organizations say Facebook is just one piece in an increasingly varied puzzle.

Andree Lau, editor-in-chief of HuffPost Canada, said the effect on the industry may be more muted now than if the change had come a few years earlier.

“Media outlets have already seen a big drop in Facebook results due to other algorithm tweaks, so this isn’t a big shock,” Lau said. “We have been adjusting our priorities and strategies long before today’s announcement.”

Facebook’s shift toward promoting conversation plays to the HuffPost’s existing focus, Lau said, adding that the media outlet has always tried to foster discussion among its readers.

Conversation is at the centre of Facebook’s new approach, according to the organization’s explanation for the change.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg outlined the rationale in a Facebook post, saying content from “businesses, brands and media” had begun to crowd out the more personal moments which he said are at the core of the network.

Those personal updates will therefore become more prevalent in user newsfeeds, he said, adding that posts from other sources will still get promoted if they help encourage social interactions.

Those interactions, Zuckerberg said, can be good for a user’s well-being.

“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health,” he wrote. “On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.”

Zuckerberg said he fully expected some “measures of engagement” to decline as a result of the changes.

The prospect didn’t appear to weigh too heavily on Global News, an early and frequent adopter of Facebook as a distribution channel.

“While we are a dominant news publisher on Facebook, we also employ strategies for diverse social media referral so as not to be dependent on any one source,” said Ron Waksman, vice president of digital and editorial standards and practices for Global News and Corus Radio.

“As a high quality journalistic source that users depend on, we are confident we can weather these changes while continuing to diversify our content streams with strong referrals from other social platforms.”

HuffPost, too, said other platforms are already filling any potential void left in the wake of Facebook’s changes, and said digital products like mobile apps can’t be ignored.

But Gavin Adamson, who teaches digital media courses at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism, said outlets will also have to rely on changes in reader behaviour if they hope to make up potential losses caused by Facebook’s new focus.

He said the impact could be “devastating” in certain cases, citing research suggesting some outlets get as much as half their traffic from Facebook.

Organizations with an exclusively digital presence could be especially hard-hit, he added, saying it will be hard to train readers accustomed to using Facebook as an aggregator to make a point of visiting their favourite news sites directly.

“Maybe (news organizations) need to get more involved in community groups and posting news within those groups, or interacting more directly with interest groups within Facebook,” he said.

The outlets themselves, however, say the best way to secure loyal readers is to produce content that will keep them coming back for more.

“Quality journalism remains a key driver of audience, regardless of the distribution channel,” said Lau.

Michelle McQuigge , The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Mt. Conkle wildfire near Summerland remains 118 hectares

This fire has several good water sources and has good road access.

Okanagan Wildfires: Monday morning update on wildfires and evacuations

A Monday morning look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Peachland wildfire mapped at over 1,500 hectares

Smoke may increase today around the valley

Okanagan Mountain Park fire remains the same size

Crews built hand guards and continued to extinguish hot spots.

BC Games: Day 3 wrap and closing ceremonies

The torch in the Cowichan Valley has been extinguished as Fort St. John gets ready to host the 2020 BC Winter Games

Man charged in 2006 B.C. murder extradited to Canada from South Korea

28-year-old Jui-Kai Weng was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder

Nitty Gritty Dirt band returns to the South Okanagan

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will perform at the South Okanagan Events Centre

Soaring temperatures, high winds could worsen fires in B.C.’s southern Interior

Environment Canada’s forecast for the next week in the southern Interior does not inspire confidence, with temperatures in the 30s and winds gusting over 40 kilometres per hour.

Iran dismisses Trump’s explosive threat to country’s leader

Trump tweeted late on Sunday that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.

Update: Police probe Toronto shooting that killed 2, injured 12; suspected gunman dead

Paramedics said many of the victims in Danforth, including a child, were rushed to trauma centres

Why do they do it? Coaches guide kids to wins, personal bests at the BC Games

Behind the 2,300 B.C. athletes are the 450 coaches who dedicate time to help train, compete

Reel Reviews: Floundering inferno

We quote Charlie Brown: “Good grief!”

UPDATE: Five taken to hospital following one of two Coquihalla accidents

One airlifted in critical condition, four taken via ambulance in stable condition

Most Read