Facebook is testing a new model for its News Feed aimed at solving two major challenges for the social network: ad visibility and social interaction decline. Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook, said in a recent blog post that the goal of the testing is “to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content.”
The testing is currently happening in Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Cambodia, Guatemala, and Sri Lanks. It consists of a split News Feed, one for family, friends, and people users follow, and the other from pages users follow such as media, public figures, or organizations.
“People tell us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family. We are testing having one dedicated space for people to keep up with their friends and family, and another separate space, called Explore, with posts from pages,” explained Mosseri in the blog post.
However, users in the testing ground see it from a different perspective. Just a couple days after the initial testing, Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik reported that major media companies in Slovakia had seen a drop in their interaction rates and webpage visits, thanks to the split.
“Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach. Reach of several asked Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days. Sixty biggest Slovak media pages have 4 times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) since the test,” wrote Struhárik in a Medium post.
In Bolivia, another testing ground, digital marketers were worried about the long-term impact of the News Feed split.
“It’s all a test that eventually will end, soon, we hope. In any case, if you create good, engaging, intelligent and shareable content, no matter how many changes or rules they drop, your strategy will endure. Even do, we think this is a strategy of some sort from Facebook to make you pay for ads to appear in both feeds,” José Torrez, a digital marketing strategist, told the Bolivian newspaper, Los Tiempos.
Facebook made it clear that this is only a test, and the company has no further plans to roll out the new type of News Feed widely. Also, Mosseri emphasized that the company doesn’t have plans to monetize the Explore tab. “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. Unfortunately, some have mistakenly made that interpretation — but that was not our intention,” he wrote in the blog post to communicate the experiment.
Facebook’s Explore tab was tested recently with some users in Mexico and Argentina, but as a new section to “more easily explore” content that may interest users based on the pages they follow or like.
As Mosseri said, it may take a while to see an actual application for the test running currently in six countries. “As with all tests we run, we may learn new things that lead to additional tests in the coming months so we can better understand what works best for people and publishers.”