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Journalists dismiss Facebook reach scare

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Journalists dismiss Facebook reach scare

In an article on Valleywag written about Facebook, journalist Sam Biddle quoted an anonymous source which stated that “all brands” would have their “organic page reach” cut down to 1 or 2 percent. Biddle alleged that media organisations would be affected, “Companies like Gawker, too, rely on gratis Facebook propagation for a huge amount of their audience. Companies on Facebook will have to pay or be pointless.”

However, Sarah Marshall, social media editor at The Wall Street Journal and ex technology editor at was keen to differentiate journalistic brands from mainstream brands. Speaking to WAN-IFRA she stated, “My view is that news organisations and general brands or products are quite different. Facebook knows most people welcome some news content in their feeds.”

Marshall did not think that newspapers would even cooperate with a pay for reach scheme. “I don’t think a lot of news organisations would think it a sensible strategy to pay. Facebook needs quality content and although the users create posts and it is predominantly a peer-to-peer relationships platform, my view is that Facebook sees news organisations providing great content as a key component to the mix.”

Marshall concluded positively, “In terms of news organisations, I don’t think there’s cause for concern. Twitter and Facebook have appointed senior journalists to positions within the social media businesses and know that they need to work with news providers and not against them.”

In an article written for Slate, Senior Technology Editor Will Oremus defended Facebook's action, “People don’t really like seeing a bunch of ads in their news feed. They like seeing updates from friends and family, funny YouTube videos, and maybe some news stories about topics they’re interested in. So Facebook has decided to show them fewer self-promotional posts from businesses and more of all the other stuff. Doesn’t sound quite so nefarious when you think of it that way, does it?”

Oremus also noted that Facebook had been reducing the reach of organic posts for a long time. “A Facebook spokesman readily confirmed to me that the company’s news feed algorithms have been ratcheting down the reach of posts from brand pages. But he insisted that the change was designed to please the average user, not to wring more money out of advertisers.”

Oremus concluded like Marshall that the move did not threaten media outlets, “Facebook referral traffic to media sites reportedly jumped 170 percent last year, presumably because people actually like seeing news stories and opinion columns in their news feeds.”

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Sarah Marshall will be participating at the World Editors Forum in Torino, 9-11 June.


William Pimlott


2014-03-25 18:26

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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