Thought Leadership

January 30, 2018

Facebook Nixes News so Consumers Turn to the Source

Katy Hendricks

In recent weeks, journalists and marketers alike have been buzzing over Facebook’s decision to de-emphasize national news from publishers and brands, in favor of prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” on individuals’ news feeds.

 

Why so much concern? Because 45 percent of Americans currently access news on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

 

This statistic in itself is controversial. Some believe that social media is not a credible or trustworthy venue for news consumption, given the role of platforms like Facebook in accelerating the “fake news” phenomenon we are experiencing today.

 

But the truth is, social media is a prime driver for discovering and sharing news. And not all news shared on Facebook is fake. Personally, I follow the New York Times, USA Today and other major media outlets via my Facebook feed, and appreciate the occasional timely article breaking up my friends’ photos and commentary.  

 

So what happens when you turn off the news valve? CooperKatz polled a national sample of 250 Americans through SurveyMonkey to find out where people will access news, once they begin to see less of it on Facebook.

 

The answer? The vast majority of Americans (65 percent) said they will now go directly to news sources.

 

According to the survey, only six percent of people said they’ll turn to Twitter for news, with other social media platforms (Snapchat, Instagram and LinkedIn) lagging even further behind. Alarmingly, almost 11 percent don’t plan to seek news anywhere.

 

Q1. If you begin to see less news in your newsfeed, where will you access news of interest to you?

 

Overall, this is good news for journalism as well as for our industry, public relations. Yet it also underscores a host of implications for brands and publishers alike.

 

So what does this data imply about the post-Facebook-news era?

 

1. We may see bigger swings in readership.

If people are vowing to turn directly to news sources rather than discovering news via social channels, the competition to attract loyal readers will become even fiercer. Few people visit 10 to 15 news outlets a day. Instead, they typically settle in with one or two go-to sources. Publishers will have to work harder to find and keep a dedicated audience.

 

2. It will be more difficult and costly to break through on Facebook.

Companies will need to start making decisions about how much time and dollars to continue investing in Facebook (paid and organic), versus turning their attention elsewhere. Brands and publishers who choose to continue prioritizing Facebook will have to dedicate larger budgets and enhanced strategies focused on engagement, which will now be measured by number of comments.

 

3. Earned media still takes precedence.

Critics have been proclaiming that “PR is dead” for well over a decade now. Core to this argument is an assumption that digital and social channels have replaced the value of “traditional” media. However, given that nearly 2/3 of Americans say they will still turn directly to media outlets for their news via the poll, these assumptions ring false. Let it serve as a reminder of the core value of earned media in the public relations mix.

 

4. Good storytelling should outweigh “sensationalism.”

As humans, we are innately attracted to storytelling as a mechanism to learn and retain information. However, “sensationalism” should not be mistaken for storytelling. Brands and publishers should avoid “click bait” in lieu of quality, authentic content.

 

5. Media polarization is likely not going away anytime soon.

A recent study by Morning Consult found the second and third most polarizing brands are CNN and Fox News respectively. As a society, we are increasingly served up – and searching for – the news we want to read. This will continue to be the case as our window of discovery becomes smaller.

 

We as public relations professionals understand our jobs in an “evolutionary” context – that is, our roles must adapt along with outside forces. As Facebook, social networks, brands and publishers determine how to structure their content in the coming months and years, we’ll be right there with them. And we’re all sure to see even more changes moving forward.

 


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