Facebook broke the news recently that it is once again going to be clocking the organic reach of publishers on its platform.1 That makes two times in as many years. The rhetoric is predictable. “Our users take precedence over marketers.”
We all agree with that about as a general rule. A user will naturally—and inevitably—prioritize some content, even certain users in their network over others.
An algorithm aids the user in that prioritization. In Facebook’s case, I see it as performing three primary functions to prioritize content on the Newsfeed:
It detects the users whom you interact with most.
It compiles your reactions to certain types of content.
It shows you advertising messages it thinks are the most relevant to you.
It is really good at all of these functions, especially the last one, and there is nothing wrong with that! Paying for controlled placement of advertising to a captive audience is a fair deal. The better the placement (that includes “targeting”) and the more captive the audience is, the more expensive the advertising will be. Facebook excels at both placement and audience captivity. This makes it a must-have in your media mix.
We all agree: a user prefers interesting content created by their fellow users more than a brand’s advertisement, even if it is a soft one. A personal Father’s Day message from my wife is more important to me than a general “Happy Father’s Day!” message next to a pair of oxfords with a Cole Haan boilerplate superimposed over it and a bit.ly link to “Shop Now.”
But that is not what Facebook is telling us by this “update.”
These "updates", though claiming to be catering to the user's preference, are anything but. Quite the opposite. It is an override of the user’s preference to see content that matters to them, regardless of who it is coming from.