What’s Facebook Doing at a Broadcasting Conference?

Sharing best practices with skeptical digital publishers

During an NAB presentation Facebook 's News Partnerships team explains how publishers should work with algorithm changes.
Headshot of Chris Ariens

Beth Loyd, who runs Facebook’s broadcast news partnerships, and Josh Mabry, who oversees the Journalism Project’s local news initiatives, explained to a roomful of digital media publishers gathered at today’s NAB Show what January’s Facebook Newsfeed changes will mean to their content.

The changes, Loyd said, are “very much a refocus for our entire company.”

Many in the room had concerns about their news content being pushed down or out of users’ newsfeeds, leading to a decrease in traffic at best and dissolution at worst. Publisher Little Things, which relied heavily on the algorithm, shut down in February.

The Facebook Newsfeed launched in 2006. Among its “values,” which Facebook codified in 2016, was “Friends and Family First.”

Loyd noted that Facebook’s own traffic is taking a hit. “We do expect overal time spent will go down,” she said.

The 40-minute presentation during Sunday’s session of the NAB Show in Las Vegas also provided solutions and re-iterated best practices for publishers, including:

  • Promote Meaningful Interactions: start conversations with stories and video.
  • Focus on Your Audience: post content that resonates; focus on community-building.
  • Avoid ‘Engagement Bait’: It’s not meaningful, and it will result in demotion of posts.

Engagement bait includes stories that aggressively ask viewers to vote, react or share. “Those posts will get demoted,” said Loyd, adding that advice, help and recommendation posts “are not adversely impacted.”

Loyd concluded her presentation by talking about the importance of Facebook Live and Facebook Watch. “We’re at NAB, and we can’t get by without talking about video,” said the veteran ABC News producer, who joined Facebook in 2014. Publishers are seeing four times more growth in daily watch time on Facebook Live than other Facebook video platforms, she said—and those posts get ten times as many comments as regular videos.

“Engaging, one-off viral videos have always done great in the Newsfeed, and will continue to do so,” she said.

One of the things Mabry and Loyd did not talk about in their presentation was the improper access of up to 87 million Facebook users’ personal information. “There’s a lot of stuff we’re not going to cover today,” said Mabry. “We’re going to stay focused on news and our roles.”

“Leadership will be in D.C. this week and there will be a lot of news there,” he added.

@ChrisAriens chris.ariens@adweek.com Chris Ariens is the managing editor and director of video at Adweek.