- Facebook is testing a News Feed free of publishers' posts in six countries: Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia. The news was reported on by Ad Age and confirmed in a blog post from Facebook that clarifies the approach is just a test and there are no current plans to extend it.
- Users in the test countries can view content from friends and families in the main News Feed and see posts from Pages in a separate tab called Explore. Publishers can still get their content on the main news feed via paid placements. Outside of the test countries, Explore remains a customized feed of popular articles, videos and photos.
- Brands and publishers in the six test countries reported a drop in traffic to their Facebook pages by as much as 60% to 80%, The Guardian reported. This is likely because users have to voluntarily seek out the separate feed designated for publishers' content, making discoverability considerably less likely.
Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world with an audience of 2 billion, but it's still looking to find new ways to keep those users engaged as it matures. Its core News Feed product is starting to run out of ad space to the point where cramming any more ads would likely damage the user experience and turn people off. With Facebook's latest dual feed test, it appears that the social giant is experimenting with striking the right balance between branded content and posts from users' friends and families.
While the test might purify users' news feeds, publishers' reactions to their content being relocated will likely be grim if The Guardian's numbers accurately reflect the impact. Facebook insists there are no current plans to extend the test beyond the six countries where it's currently taking place. However, the company also doesn't close the door completely on a future extension. The test stems from feedback indicating users want to view posts from family and friends in one stream, and content from brands and publishers in another stream, a spokesperson told Ad Age.
"The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content," Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed, wrote in the blog post. "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."
If removing publishers' posts from the main news feed becomes a permanent feature, publishers might have to fork over ad dollars for a sponsored post to get onto a desired audience's main page. This signals that Facebook could be exploring a pay-to-play model for News Feed.