Digital Marketing

TheChive Sends Single Finger Salute to Facebook – Pledges to Quit The Social Network

on
February 28, 2018

You may or may not like content published by TheChive. Some people love it, some hate it. Actually, a lot like it.

In fact, according to Quantcast there are nearly 14,000,000 unique visits to the website every month. Those 14 million visitors are viewing nearly 100,000,000 pages on TheChive. This makes TheChive an extremely prominent top trafficked website in the US.

Additionally, TheChive operates in many ways as a community. They have Chive Charities, an entity that famously donates a ton of money to good causes every year. Meaning, their audience is very attentive to their views, opinions and take on what’s going on around the web.

Which should spell trouble for Facebook. This because TheChive just announced it’s quitting Facebook. The same TheChive that currently has a Facebook page with nearly 4,000,000 fans/likes.

A large publisher being disgruntled with Facebook is not new. Several others have made similar moves. But what makes TheChive’s announcement unique is that they didn’t just say they were quitting, they actually called on all other publishers to leave Facebook’s Instant Article program with them.

TheChive opened up both barrels in the direction of Facebook’s publisher platform.

Three years ago publishers had a good relationship with Facebook. If you followed a publisher on FB and that publisher shared a link to their website, it would go out to 100% of your followers. The whole point of liking a website on Facebook is to enjoy their content right? Not entirely…

Mark Zuckerberg had clever plan to get publishers hooked on their traffic, simultaneously hooking Facebook users on that same content via their News Feed. Then Zuck began creating a ‘walled garden’ around publisher pages, slowly scaling back ‘organic’ reach and making publishers pay to supplement the lost traffic. For example, let’s say Facebook scaled reach back to 50% from 100%. Facebook would allow you to pay to make up the difference to get it back to 100%. Publishers, hopeless hooked on FB traffic, paid and paid until they could pay no more.

Today, ‘Organic Reach’ has now dropped below 1%. Facebook continues encouraging publishers to continue uploading their content to the Instant Articles platform, promising changes are in the works. With trust in Facebook hitting an all-time low, something tells me they might be full of crap.

Now before we go further I want to inject some of my own experience with Facebook’s betrayal of those who have worked so hard to build pages with large followings on the social network. My own personal page has more than 100,000 fans/likes. I’ve never spent a penny marketing or promoting the page. I built the page through sheer grit and many years of consistent posting.

I have no expectation that anything I post will reach all 105,000 of my followers. But a few years ago I could say something and at least 10,000 might see it in their feed. Now I’m lucky to break 3,000 views on a post. The scary part is that apparently my 3-5% reach is higher than many, if not most, online publishers.

Facebook will, of course, let me “pay” to reach more of my fans, but the problem is I don’t sell things in the vast majority of my posts. So there is no financial return on any investment I might make to reach more of my fans. Meaning spending money to reach my followers is a fool’s errand. Yet Facebook lumps me in with publishers it believes should be paying for access to an audience on Facebook. Even if that audience is an audience that organically formed around the publisher.

This has effectively killed my own personal news feed. You see, I don’t use Facebook for the social connection aspect. I don’t do much socializing online. I don’t share pictures of my meals, I don’t share my mood every ten minutes and I don’t root for my team with the hopes that someone else “likes” my opinion on a game. No, I use Facebook for a source of information. Information that I specifically select to get by following and liking pages/groups that match my interests.

Facebook has made a financially based decision to knock most of what I want out of my feed. It claims this is all about bringing the social aspect back into the mix. But what about its users who don’t care about commenting on someone’s relationship status or where they’re eating dinner? What about those of us who follow pages about marketing, videography, film production, web development, etc? What if THAT is the value of Facebook for many of us?

Now all we’ll get to see is content published by the very elite media we’ve all come to despise and loath. Because those publishers are owned and controlled by billionaires and have seemingly infinite supplies of cash.

Yes, I get that you can somewhat manually go to each page or group and select to see that content first. My problem with this is two fold. First, why the hell should I have to do that? When I like a page, I like a page. If I don’t want to see that page content, I will simply unlike it. What’s so hard about that? Second, the feature doesn’t work anyway. I’m still seeing content from publishers who pay to put it there and don’t know what’s happening with the pages I “like.”

This has forced me to spend far less time on Facebook. In fact, I rarely ever open the Facebook app on my phone. I use messenger quite regularly but not the actual Facebook app. Because, quite frankly, my feed is no longer of interest to me.

I’m not a fan of TheChive’s Facebook page, but I certainly feel their pain. Facebook betrayed publishers. There is no way to sugar coat that fact. For years they told us all to keep working at building our pages. I know publishers who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying likes on their pages, doing so at the recommendation of Facebook. All to reach a point where Facebook said that no matter how good the content is, you still have to pay to show it to those who chose to see it.

What makes it worse for publishers like TheChive is that they were using Facebook’s Instant Articles feature. This is a feature Facebook built then convinced publishers to use instead of their own servers and websites. Facebook told publishers that they could host their content on Facebook, presenting faster load speeds, easier access for Facebook users and a split of revenue for the content publisher.

It all sounded good at first. But then Facebook hid the data on what the overall revenue was, it didn’t share any user/traffic data with the publishers and it STILL forced publishers to pay for the content to be seen by those who chose to see it. In other words, you give up control of your content and exchange have to pay more for people to see it.

Doesn’t sound like a good deal, does it?

TheChive goes on to say:

The dictator isn’t going to become your liberator. Facebook can lead other publishers by the nose into whatever horrific fate awaits them. theCHIVE will go it alone. Effective immediately, we will discontinue publishing articles to Facebook IA.

That means that you will no longer find Chive galleries on Facebook. You can still share links if you like, but they won’t open in Facebook. The publishing world has consolidated itself on the Facebook platform, it’s time to blow up the model.

What this tells us is that TheChive was paying to boost content and the return was not justifying the payments. Facebook controls the content and renders it unprofitable.

Think about that for a moment.

My post here isn’t up just to bitch about Facebook. The interwebz has no shortage of that going on. But I do suggest, and highly recommend, that if you’re starting a content based platform or website you would be very wise to develop ways to build audiences and interact with them in an environment that does not rely on Facebook. There are still ways to utilize Facebook. We still do and I’m still a fan of the platform generally speaking. But do not make the mistake of putting all of your marketing eggs in that one basket. You will get burned.

I’m guessing TheChive’s announcement has caused some discomfort at Facebook. If any of us little bloggers say we’re quitting Facebook they don’t bat an eye. But when a property that sees nearly 100,000,000 views a month tells Facebook to pound sand… people are going to notice.

Unfortunately, Facebook is now a public company and its actions are all financially motivated. The kind of changes Facebook could make to bring us all back and get us building their community for them again are just not going to happen.

Not in my opinion anyway.

What say you?

-Eric Odom

 

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Muckraker. Nu Disco fan. Video Production Geek. Digital Marketing Nerd. Politicians suck. Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks & Bulls!