The closure of the BuzzFeed News division is just one more sign of a slow but evident shift in the orientation of tectonic plates in the digital traffic ecosystem as far as media is concerned. Namely, the explosion of news consumption and traffic on social networks seems to be in clear retraction; maintaining the metaphor used of nature, if on the one hand the continents (BigTech) are moving away, on the other the consumption and recommendation of news content on social networks is entering an ice age.
One of many?
The CEO of BuzzFeed Inc., the parent company that owns the popular BuzzFeed website and had just a few years ago launched BuzzFeed News, Jonah Peretti announced the closure of publication this April 2023. -e-ali collected from some employees, still or formerly involved in the management, the reasons are algorithmic changes mainly on Facebook, which are privileging native video content instead of news links; on the other hand, a strong investment in writing without a clear vision of the project’s ROI (believing more than having evidence of payout in the medium term); restrictions on programmatic advertising from many advertisers and agencies who, given the infinite lake of inventory, prefer to advertise in brand-safe verticals (such as Tasty, which is also part of BuzzFeed Inc.) rather than risk having their campaigns together with news that is often negatively emotional or factual (hard news; breaking news).
In short, in an excellent summary from an undisclosed company executive quoted in several media publications: “BuzzFeed News was created for a social ecosystem, but the ecosystem has evaporated.”
Far beyond BuzzFeed
Looking a little more at the forest and less at a tree in it, it is necessary to remember that Meta decided to disinvest in its teams and in its News division on Facebook. After that, and in the last two years in its communication to the market, the company revealed that there is a sharp decrease in the number of posts with a link in the main feed, including links from pages of social communication organs. It was, in fact, even controversial the revelation/accusation/insinuation on several websites of potential evidence of rules given to the algorithm, indicating a degradation of the reach of media pages or commercial brands, continuing to privilege those of public and political figures.
Pressure from European, North American, Canadian or Australian regulators, similarly to search engines, on the fact that Meta should remunerate the media, led Mark Zuckerberg and his team to defend themselves by saying that Meta’s ecosystem different, and one in which news is no longer central to social consumption. Incidentally, they recently commissioned a study from NERA Economic Consulting that reinforces this idea – one of the data in the conclusions reveals that news on Facebook today represents only three percent of what users see. Add to this the annual statistics of the Reuters Digital News Report, where the share of news consumption on social networks has been decreasing, and the trend becomes evidence (or as foresighters will say, it is already structure).
Additionally, the new emerging and consolidated social platforms are anything but link-friendly… Instagram doesn’t allow anything (stories, links in the bio and little else), TikTok is worse (it could even be banned one of these days), and Twitter, which could still count on a few crumbs, has been a real mess in this regard at the beginning of the Elon Musk era.
Where does the wind point us?
Clearly for a lesser dependence on direct social traffic, on the one hand, a fair remuneration of third parties in which, directly and indirectly, the news contributes to the growth of the ecosystem (ie search engines and aggregators) and the continuous need for the development of a brand and news product (not afraid to say so) that brings together an interested community, involved and committed to it, that sees value in visiting the site regularly, installing the app, subscribing to the newsletter, paying the subscription and attending its events, among others others. It even looks easy.
In the meantime, not everything can be bad. What these algorithms with little concern for journalism were also allowing was the populist and deviant population of pseudo-news sites, some even openly fake news, clickbait headlines and a noise that has little or nothing to do with freedom of expression and more with business of volume and digital advertising on the shoulders of tricks to get around what is relevant, appealing to interactions and thus ‘sticking’ and appearing in the feed.
At the end of the day, those looking for news may increasingly come to realize the value of being loyal to a value proposition, paid, free or freemium, instead of letting themselves be guided by what a feed of parties, travel , games and shopping. The end result, we’ll see, but it could be more positive than tragic.
Opinion article signed by Ricardo Tomé, coordinating director of Media Capital Digital and professor at Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics
Source: Meios & Publicidade by www.meiosepublicidade.pt.
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