As reported by TechCrunch last week, a new version of the Facebook news feed, named 'Explore', is being trialled globally.
But in six countries including Slovakia, the test is working differently, according to Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik, with the regular newsfeed now only featuring content from friends and sponsored posts - with all other posts by pages such as news publishers moved to the Explore feed. He said that this had significantly impacted traffic to his title.
Biggest drop in organic reach we’ve ever seen. Pages have 4 times less interactions, reach fell by two-thirds https://t.co/KhAtCR0yvu— Filip Struhárik (@filip_struharik) October 21, 2017
Struhárik's piece was then reported in The Guardian. Its story on the trial has been shared more than 32,000 times, with a number of prominent journalists expressing concerns about the impact this change might have on their platforms.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. https://t.co/55ML7mA7xb— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 23, 2017
So: back to working in bookshops, I guess. The Internet will never kill them: https://t.co/SUKs9cOnzc— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) October 23, 2017
Can’t wait for Facebook’s potential newsfeed changes to force media companies to pivot to bankruptcy. https://t.co/xpwVkukSbE— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) October 23, 2017
Others pointed out that reliance on a single source of traffic was not a healthy business model for publishers or other businesses.
"If someone else’s algorithm change could kill your traffic and/or your business model, then you’re already dead." https://t.co/XhjSgH68gt— Hendrik Dacquin (@studiomuscle) October 24, 2017
In response to these concerns, Facebook head of news feed Adam Mosseri published a blog this morning entitled 'Clarifying recent tests', in which he said: "We currently have no plans to roll this test out further."
He wrote: "The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further.
"There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore. Unfortunately, some have mistakenly made that interpretation – but that was not our intention."
BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones wrote of Facebook's clarification: "This has not helped much - that word 'currently' seems to stick out ominously."