Facebook: our news figures don't include social video or posts without links

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Do you remember that figures that Facebook have been quoting about news being 5% of newsfeed content? Buzzfeed went and asked Facebook to prove it.

And they said “no”:

Facebook is refusing to release data to back up its claim that merely 5% of the content people see in the News Feed is news, a key figure in its recently announced plans to remake its powerful main product.

So much for Facebook’s new age of transparency.

Even without opening its books to external scrutiny, new details suggest the analysis has gaps: notably, it excludes the native videos Facebook trained and paid media organizations to produce (BuzzFeed included), and that it promoted heavily. It also, according to a Facebook spokesperson, “does not encompass everything that may be considered news,” including other native posts without links including infographics, status updates and photos, leaving open the question of just how dependent on other companies’ intellectual property the social media giant has become. A Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that including such content would not meaningfully change the numbers.

I’d put meaning fun money on that fact they’re downplaying the actual amount of newsfeed content that has been “news” in the near past, by carefully defining “news” oil such a way as it discounts a significant amount of publisher content.

That “5% of feed to 4% of feed” spin on the algorithm changes? Spin, pure and simple. The end point might be accurate – but the beginning point isn’t.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.