Facebook’s 1.47 billion active daily users are the top priority of the business but publishers still play an important role on the platform, according to a senior executive for the social network in Australia.

It was these individual users that Facebook had in mind earlier in the year when it made a raft of changes to the algorithm that saw many publishers take a huge hit to their traffic. (For the full in-depth report read: The shifting relationship between Facebook and publishers.)

“The key to that change is that our audience, the people on Facebook, were having fewer opportunities to connect with each other due to the proliferation of public content in the newsfeed.

“This is something that was a response to our audience who have been asking for this for a long time. And when you prioritise friends and family content, public content has a lower share of voice,” said Andrew Hunter, news partnerships lead for the social network in Australia, at Mumbrella’s Publish conference in Sydney recently.

For publishers affected by this, Hunter advised putting strategies in place to ensure they aren’t relying solely on Facebook to deliver eyeballs to content: “It’s about not being reliant on us. We’re not encouraging any publisher to build a business purely off the back of Facebook reach,” he said.

“It’s about finding one or two ways that we can work together to hopefully really move the needle on the publisher business and either help them with connecting to their audience or helping them make revenue on the platform.”

Facebook has set about building flexibility into its offering to support freemium and metered models as well as putting subscription offers in front readers before they hit a paywall. The introduction of a bottom sheet that comes up from the edge of the device to present an offer to the user has led to a 17% uplift in subscriptions through Instant Articles, Hunter revealed.

While these initiatives demonstrate the value publishers and the content they produce holds for Facebook, Hunter maintains that the social network should only be one part of a publisher’s distribution model.

“I have never seen any encouragement from Facebook to publishers to build their business entirely off the back of Facebook reach. It doesn’t make sense for publishers to do that. It’s not something that we encourage. We’re one part of the distribution ecosystem and it’s important everyone understands that,” he said.

Sourced from WARC