Facebook is testing burying posts from media outlets in a separate News Feed -- unless they pay

Mark ZuckerbergGetty / Stephen LamFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is interviewed by reporters.
  • Facebook is currently testing a change that would force news publishers to pay for posts they make to their Facebook Pages to be show in users’ News Feed.
  • In six countries, posts made on Facebook Pages are now shown in a separate Explore tab, while the main News Feed only shows posts from friends, ads, and posts that companies operating Pages have paid to promote.
  • Facebook said it has no current plans to roll the change out globally.

Facebook is testing a change that could have dramatic effects on media organisations and other businesses that use its network to distribute their stories and other information.

The change affects posts published on Facebook Pages, the profile-like webpages on the site that are reserved for businesses, organisations, professionals, and public figures.

In six countries, Facebook has removed all posts published on Facebook Pages from its users’ main News Feed and moved them to a separate and less prominent “Explore” section in its app. The change leaves the main News Feed reserved for only posts from friends, ads, and individual posts that organisations operating Facebook Pages pay to promote.

Facebook confirmed the test, which was first spotted by Slovakian journalist  Filip Struhárik, to Business Insider on Monday.

“With all of the possible stories in each person’s feed, we always work to connect people with the posts they find most meaningful,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages.”

The test is currently active for people in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala, and Cambodia, according to the spokesperson, who added that the company has no current plans to roll the change out globally.

Most news organisations rely on Facebook as a major source of traffic for their content. Along with Google’s search engine, Facebook’s algorithms are largely responsible for helping grow the early reach of digital upstarts like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post.

The change does not affect individual users’ ability to share news articles or other webpages with their friends. Those posts from individuals will still show up in the News Feed, even if they ultimately come from companies that maintain Facebook Pages. 

Still, by sequestering posts from Pages into a separate feed, Facebook could radically lower the traffic it sends to companies that don’t pay to promote their posts in the main News Feed. In Slovakia, where the test is currently active, companies operating Pages are already “seeing dramatic drops in organic reach,” according to Struhárik.

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