Actually, Facebook’s big algorithm change hasn’t hurt partisan media

March 30, 2018


A few months ago Facebook implemented a big change in its algorithm that impacted what kind of content it would surface to users. In a move that sent shivers down the spines of media professionals, Facebook said it would de-prioritize publisher content in favor of posts between connections.

For many publishers that rely on Facebook, this meant possible death. And some right-wing media companies believed that this was a way for Facebook to purposely suppress conservative content. However, this concern doesn’t seem to have manifested–at least not yet.

New data from NewsWhip, which was provided to Nieman Lab, show that Facebook engagement for both right-leaning and left-leaning media sites didn’t see a huge dip following the algorithm shift. In fact, the usual ebbs and flows of month-to-month engagement seemed to continue–with some sites even seeing much more engagement during some months. Even fake news sites didn’t see a huge change from the algorithm shift.

This confirms what I wrote about a few months ago, via data from the Boston Globe‘s director of audience and Nieman fellow Matt Karolian. Karolian was able to show that hyper-partisan posts were, in fact, the best performing content on Facebook.

Nieman Lab points out a few important facts. One, despite the right-wing media’s claim that Facebook is singling it out, engagement on conservative content is generally far higher than what liberal publishers see. Two, this Facebook engagement metric doesn’t necessarily translate to traffic to the sites, although it is a helpful data point for understanding consumption trends.

Overall, this new data indicates that people have continued sharing and engaging with hyper-partisan content, despite concerns about the algorithm change. Which, I guess, isn’t that surprising when you really think about it.

You can read the full Nieman Lab write-up here.

Fast Company