As Facebook Focuses on Video, Engagement for Top Publishers Declines

Over the past year, Facebook has set its sights on becoming a platform for video — in particular live video, something it has been paying a number of media companies to produce, in order to promote its streaming feature. But the flip side of that increase is that non-video content produced by some of the leading publishers is getting less and less interaction.

That’s according to a recent study published by NewsWhip, an analytics company that focuses on content distributed by social networks. When it comes to Facebook, the agency tracks liking and sharing activity across the platform, and it says the data shows a “noticeable decline in engagement” with media content over the past few months.

NewsWhip said it looked at likes, comments and sharing of linked articles from the top 10 publishers on Facebook over the past year. That group includes both digital natives such as BuzzFeed and Huffington Post as well traditional media outlets such as the New York Times, Fox News, the BBC and the Guardian, and some smaller outlets.



Over the past nine months, NewsWhip says, the research shows a fairly sharp decline in engagement of all kinds: Likes, the most dominant form of interaction, dropped by about 55% between July of last year and April of 2016. And sharing activity also declined sharply: Shares fell by 57% and comments by almost 64%.

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It seems obvious that engagement for non-video content is declining. But why? It could be that Facebook is deliberately pushing that kind of article down in people’s feeds. Or it could be a consequence of Facebook promoting more video, which squeezes out other forms of content. Or it could be both.

Whatever the cause, the impact of Facebook promoting video and paying media companies to produce it is obvious: According to NewsWhip, CNN had 1,051 posts on its main Facebook page last July, with 22 native videos and a total of 97,330 engagements overall. Last month, however, the news network had about the same number of posts, but there were 10 times as many videos — 22% of the total — and 2 million engagements.

As the NewsWhip blog points out, in addition to the focus on video, Facebook has made a number of tweaks to its news-feed algorithm that have also affected how media content appears and whether it gets engagement or not. Among the changes were that Facebook now pays attention to “time spent” with an article in addition to just sharing behavior.

Facebook also said that it was trying to promote original content over content that has shown up a lot in people’s feeds already, and that may have helped push down the numbers for media companies as well. But the biggest factor of all seems to be Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless focus on video. That appears to be shaping the behavior of news consumers on the platform more than some publishers might like.

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