MENLO PARK, CA: Facebook is trialling a new approach to distributing publisher content that has the potential to significantly reduce the reach of non-promoted posts.

“People tell us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family,” Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, explained in a blog post. “We are testing having one dedicated space for people to keep up with their friends and family, and another separate space, called Explore, with posts from pages.”

The test is currently taking place in six countries – Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Serbia, Bolivia and Guatemala – and he stressed that “there is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore”.

The use of the word ‘current’ may be instructive. Matti Littunen, a senior research analyst at Enders Analysis, told the Guardian the move was “the classic Facebook playbook: first give lots of organic reach to one content type, then they have to pay for reach, then they can only get through to anyone by paying.”

And that was certainly the view of most media coverage, which ranged from the apocalyptic – Facebook casually considers annihilating the digital media industry, according to Vanity Fair – to the factual.

Filip Struhárik, a journalist at Slovakian newspaper Dennik N, reported on Medium that the reach of several Facebook pages fell on [last] Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days, while the sixty biggest Slovak media pages had four times fewer interactions.

He told the Guardian that while it was too early to draw definite conclusions, “if reach is radically smaller, interactions decreased and your site doesn’t have diversity of traffic sources, it will hurt you”.

But he added that he doesn’t expect the test to be a huge success. “Newsfeed without news. Just friends and sponsored content. People will find out how boring their friends are,” he said.

Sourced from Facebook, Guardian, Medium, Vanity Fair; additional content by WARC staff