Facebook testing a tool to test content versions

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Facebook is testing a tool that aims to help publishers reach more users on the social platform, Digiday reports. The tool lets publishers test four different versions of a piece of content with varying headlines, images, and descriptions to see which version performs best.

Share of Publishers' Traffic Referrals Business Insider Intelligence

Currently, the tool is limited to linked posts that redirect Facebook users back to publishers’ websites.

Over 50% of the time, publishers that have tested the tool pick a version that was different from the original post, indicating that the tool is effectively helping publishers drive more traffic to their sites.

Facebook wants to help maximize how publishers pitch content to users on the platform, according to Facebook news team product manager, Mollie Vandor.

Here’s why Facebook is focusing on driving traffic referrals:

  • Facebook has become a less prominent source of traffic for many publishers. For example, BuzzFeed is now receiving a lot less traffic from Facebook, according to BuzzFeed deputy director of news curation Fran Berkman, per Digiday. Moreover, in H2 2017, Facebook accounted for 18.2% of publishers’ traffic referrals, down about twelve percentage points year-over-year (YoY), per Shareaholic. And these declines in traffic referrals are likely tied to News Feed tweaks. In May 2017, Facebook decreased the visibility of links that were misleading, spammy, or sensational; and earlier this year Facebook began deprioritizing publisher content in News Feed.
  • And other social apps are gaining steam for online news consumption in the US.Four percent of respondents to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2018 indicated using WhatsApp for news in the past week (+1 percentage point YoY), while 5% used Snapchat (+3 percentage points YoY). Meanwhile, Facebook’s share declined 9 percentage points YoY to 39%. To be fair, Facebook is still the top source of news, but other social apps have been able to grow news consumption on their platforms by diversifying their offerings: ESPN launched a twice-daily version of “SportsCenter” on Snapchat last November, for example.

The tool is the latest step that builds on the social giant’s efforts to combat declining news readers, which hurts Facebook’s ability to collect data for ad targeting. The social platform in July debuted its first slate of funded news shows in its long-form video section Watch, with partners including ATTN., Quartz, and Mic.

These news shows could help supplement the news content Facebook users are already consuming through news links on the platform, potentially making Facebook a stickier news consumption platform.

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