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

Langley conservative activist accused City council of human rights violations over flags

Kari Simpson will complain to the B.C. Human Rights tribunal, she said.

Fines up to $500 for toking up near kids in Langley City

New smoking regulations aim to restrict marijuana use

Furry tail reunions highlight of pet photos with Santa

One day of picture taking managed to raise more than $1,000 for Langley Animal Protection Society.

O’Neill a homegrown power hitter

Tyler O’Neill of Maple Ridge made his major league debut this past season

Singers stop by with big bucks for Langley Christmas Bureau

First Capital Chorus has held Christmas bureau fundraising concerts for a quarter century.

B.C. Lions hire DeVone Claybrooks as head coach

Former Stampeders DC succeeds CFL legend Wally Buono

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Twenty-four seperate counts in B.C. cities found there are thousands of homeless in all corners of province

White Rock to allow dogs on promenade

Plans for a one-year pilot program would continue to ban canines on waterfront from May to August

Most Read