The experiment, which began 19 October and is still ongoing, involves limiting the core element of Facebooks social network to only personal posts and paid adverts.
So-called public posts, such as those from media organisation Facebook pages, are being moved to a separate explore feed timeline. As a result, media organisations in the six countries containing 1% of the worlds population Sri Lanka, Guatemala, Bolivia, Cambodia, Serbia and Slovakia have had one of their most important publishing platforms removed overnight.
The Facebook explore tab killed 66% of our traffic. Just destroyed it years of really hard work were just swept away, says Dina Fernandez, a journalist and member of the editorial board at Guatemalan news site Soy502. It has been catastrophic, and I am very, very worried.
In Slovakia, data from Facebook-owned analytics site CrowdTangle shows that interactions engagement such as likes, shares and comments fell by 60% overnight for the Facebook pages of a broad selection of the countrys media Facebook pages. Filip Struhrik, a Slovakian journalist with news site Dennk N, says the situation has since worsened, falling by a further 5%.
Lower reach can be a problem for smaller publishers, citizens initiatives, small NGOs, Struhrik said. They cant afford to pay for distribution on Facebook by boosting posts and they dont have infrastructure to reach people other ways.
Struhrik thinks his employer will survive the change. Dennk N has subscription revenue, which means it doesnt rely on the vast traffic that Facebook can drive for advertising income, and ensures that its most dedicated readers go straight to its homepage for their news. But Fernandez, in Guatemala, is much more concerned.
Even if Facebook reversed the change today, she says, I really dont know how long it will take to recover. If they reverse it fast enough it will be less difficult. If they take a long time, we might not be around. Soy502 is a new site in an unstable democracy where journalists and civil society groups already face an uphill battle to be heard.
We currently have a smear campaign that is targeting journalists, which is really vicious, fuelled by interest groups who are against the anti-corruption drive in our country, she says. We are regarded in the region as a success story on new media for the digital age. This can destroy us.
The explore feed
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