FACEBOOK IS testing a new way of displaying content from publishing partners that removes it from the main News Feed and, quite unsurprisingly, publishers aren't happy about the change.
In a nutshell, the experiment is a localised test taking place in Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka that splits brand content into its own 'Explore' tab, leaving the News Feed for personal (friends and family) and sponsored posts.
As Facebook's News Feed is a key source of traffic - and ultimately, revenue - for publishers, the accompanying drop in traffic has caused widespread concern that test will become the standard. If that did happen, paying to 'Boost' posts would be the only way to ensure that content reaches Facebook's huge audience.
Some organisations in countries where the test has been taking place report that organic reach is down by two-thirds and engagement down by as much as four times its previous level.
For publishers worried that the News Feed will become entirely 'pay to play', Facebook says that there aren't currently any plans to roll it out further at this time.
"Some have interpreted this test as a future product we plan to deliver globally. We currently have no plans to roll this test out further," Facebook's head of the News Feed, Adam Mosseri, explained in a post.
Saying there are no plans to expand it at this time doesn't exactly preclude it from ever happening though.
The relationship between publishers and Facebook is an uneasy one, whereby Facebook recognises that content drives engagement and publishers get access to an audience of billions of eyeballs, some of which may end up back on their own sites driving their own revenues.
Any changes to the News Feed that upset this already delicate balance are never going to be well received. µ
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