Can News Publications Survive Without Using Facebook’s Native Ads?

Facebook’s latest changes means that publishers can't make the margins they once did on Facebook's Native Ads.
Facebook's native ads.

Claire AustinBy Claire Austin
Head of Audience at King Content
Sydney, Australia
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Has anyone else noticed how the love-hate relationship between news publishers and Facebook is getting even more intense? It seems like they are caught up in an ongoing power battle that no one is really winning. In fact, in a recent survey by the NAI and FIPP magazine executives listed Facebook as the fourth most effective form of native advertising after online articles, video and printed articles (get the free ebook here).

This is interesting; they do see the social media giant as a powerful native marketing tool, but they believe it is less effective than printed articles.

I am pretty shocked by this given that print in UK alone dropped by a further 6.6% last year meaning there are now no newspapers that exceed a daily readership of two million. Yet, there are 24 million unique users using Facebook every single day in the UK. You do the math! So do publishers think it’s actually less effective or is it that they are no longer seeing the organic results they were doing and so now they no longer see its value? Let’s take a closer look.

This is a massive decrease in traffic from a source that has become fundamental for news publishers

News Publishers have thousands of followers on Facebook and therefore their organic reach, to date, has been pretty damn good. This coupled with the fact that they are posting a zillion times a day means their content gets seen, right? Well, not anymore, Facebook changed its algorithm in May, (again) and it is now sending less traffic to content sites.

Instead, it is prioritising post shares from friends and family over publisher brands which has had repercussions for publishers, (not for the first time). Reach has dropped by 42% and a study by SocialFlow found that ‘stories posted to Facebook in May reached an average of 68,000 compared to 117,000 in January’. This is a massive decrease in traffic from a source that has become fundamental for news publishers. In fact, Facebook drives more traffic to news publications than Google does.

Publishers such as the Guardian, NY Times and SMH rely heavily on their sponsored content offerings and their reach on Facebook has always been part of an appealing package for brands. Facebook’s new tagging requirement will mean brands can calculate the media buy and publishers won’t be able to make the margins they once did or brands will no longer use them.

Dismissing native ads on Facebook, will leave news publishers looking for other options

So what now? They will have to decide whether they bite the bullet and pay to play or whether they watch their traffic decrease and find another solution. Using the native advertising solutions and paying to reach their audience seem like the simple solution, but this may not be sustainable in a declining industry. Also, it seems there is a worry that they are relinquishing power and letting Facebook dominate.

I can understand the dilemma for the publishing world. However, ultimately Facebook is a media force that the news publishers will need to accept. In the US 64% get news from Facebook, this is massive and shows just how powerful the channel has become. It has created an architecture and functionality that people have grown to love and use daily to stay up to date with pretty much everything.

Dismissing native ads on Facebook, will leave news publishers looking for other options, but I doubt they will get the scale they can get on Facebook and they will be left with their tail between their legs. If they want to build up their sponsored content offerings they will need to find the right place to distribute their content and reach their audience at scale and whether they like it or not, Facebook is a pretty successful medium they can’t afford to ignore.

 

Meet Claire Austin at Native Advertising Days on November 16th-17th. In attending the conference you will also be presented with inspirational cases, solid insights and actionable tools that you can take home and implement right away. Other speakers include Stephanie Losee, Head of Content at VISA, Jason Miller, Global Content Marketing Leader at Linkedin, Michael Villaseñor, Creative Director of Ad Innovation and Marketing at the New York Times, and Rebecca Lieb, Leading Industry Analyst on native Advertising.

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Photo credit: Flickr/Global Panorama

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