Recalibrating for “Organic” engagements

News publishers can expect web traffic from Facebook to drop by about 35%, according to Kaleida estimates. The important number to track when things do eventually stabilise is going to be “Organic” engagements.

After news got demoted on Facebook publishers began wondering what Organic activity looks like for them. Facebook will no longer push the stories that publishers are promoting, but what about the stories people choose to share on their own without being prompted?

We recalibrated our data a bit to find the patterns and excluded all the activity that Facebook plans to block. It’s clear that some publishers will get hit harder than others, but everyone will be affected.

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “Organic” and how we derive those figures.

We collect the total engagement count for every article directly from Facebook’s published figures. That count is the sum of the number of likes, shares and comments for posts that include a link to an article. Posts with the link to the article may come from Facebook users, and they may come from the publisher of the story who posts it to their Facebook brand page.

We separate the engagement counts for the posts made by the publisher to get a Promoted engagement number.

So, for example, on this story by The New York Times Facebook tells us that there were 19,047 total engagements. The New York Times posted the story to their brand page here. That brand page post on its own accounted for 10,155 engagements or 53% of the 19,047 total engagements. Therefore, the Organic total is 8,892 engagements — that is 19,047 total engagements minus 10,155 Promoted engagements.

Organic Engagements = Total Engagements – Promoted Engagements

In this case you can see a significant bump in sharing activity after this article was posted by The New York Times to their Facebook brand page. They also posted it to their home page at about an hour prior to this and kept it there for 10 hours. It’s unclear what effect the home page had in promoting the story on Facebook, but it seems pretty obvious their Facebook promotion had an immediate and significant effect.

Source: Kaleida

The article was averaging 2 engagements per minute prior to the brand page promotion and 35 engagements per minute just moments after it was promoted.

We’re not seeing any particular pattern for different types of publishers. The Organic figure varies by region, politics, size and volume without any obvious distinction. There may be differences in subjects of coverage or article types. We will continue exploring those areas, but here is a snapshot of what we can see by publisher from last week, the 18th to the 25th of January.

This chart suggests most publishers can expect to lose about 35% of their engagements on average after the change is complete — more for those publishers who are reliant on Promoted engagements, less for those whose readers are actively engaging with their stories unprompted.

Not all Promoted activity will disappear. Publishers can still pay for placement. But we can expect most of it to be gone soon.

Based on our recent research correlating engagements to web traffic referrals, the data would suggest publishers will lose that much in referral traffic from Facebook, too.

Fox News, for example, will lose about half of their traffic from Facebook. Breitbart may see nearly all of their Facebook traffic disappear.

Managing the transition to Organic

Prior to the announcement Facebook was training publishers to take control of their presence on the platform, to post more content more often. But now that message has changed and news publishers are all rethinking their strategies for dealing with the company.

In this new world news orgs will need a better understanding of the natural activity happening across the social network, because they won’t be able to influence engagement without paying Facebook for placement. And there are still no guarantees that will work, either.

The “Organic” number will be key. The contrast between Organic and Promoted activity will help news orgs understand when their journalism is resonating on its own and how they can influence the market, if at all.

It would be reasonable to expect that this number will be a more reliable long term metric than total engagements. Facebook could continue demoting users’ posts with news article links in them, too, but at some point they will be affecting active users adversely in addition to publishers.

Facebook values their users more than any other contributor to the Facebook ecosystem, and they will give more thought to throwing away investments their users have made in the platform than they did to news orgs.

Publishers interested in seeing how they stack up against other news orgs can always give us a shout. Kaleida can prepare reports that show whether a trend you are seeing is unique to you or a wider market trend.

Send an email to or send us a message via Twitter @kaleidanet.

Facebook demotes the news — what it means for news orgs

Facebook announced a considerable change to their news feed that will profoundly affect professional media. We don’t yet know how dramatic the numbers will drop, but there are some indicators that could help us understand what’s going to happen.

While Facebook’s decision to demote news in the feed may feel sudden and drastic there have been signals for some time that things were going to change. Kaleida data has been showing a steady decline in news engagements for several months.

Source: Kaleida’s 2017 Year in Review Report

What will that curve look like in 2018? If we exclude all the engagements for articles promoted by publishers on their brand pages, because those posts are the ones that will appear less in users’ feeds, then median engagements drops by 50% or more depending on the publisher.

That may not be an apples to apples comparison of the old world to the new one, but we are certainly talking about a big cliff and real impact on publishers.

Engagements for some publishers translate directly into web traffic. Facebook acknowledges that publishers can expect that to drop as a result of the changes:

“We’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers…Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution”

One publisher we work with converts that traffic into about $0.04 in revenue per engagement. It may not crush them to lose that traffic, but they’ll feel it.

BBC and CNN have huge numbers that surely have a big impact on engagements. When they post a story to their brand page millions of people get that story in their Facebook feed.

A lot of that activity is going to die.

News orgs will still get the pure organic engagements — people sharing their articles without being prompted to do so by the publisher. Though we can’t be sure how much. Facebook will continue to tune their algorithm, and organic sharing by readers may fall, as well.

We’ve taken a snapshot of 2017 performance to use as a benchmark. The table here shows the number of Page Likes for the leading publishers and some engagement figures we’ll be tracking.

So, for example, The New York Times’ mid-point or median engagements prior to this change was 258. That will go down. Most articles will get much less than 258 now, probably closer to 100 engagements.

The leading indicator for future activity will probably be the “Organic” engagements for higher-performing articles, or the 90th percentile. The top 10% of articles earned about 7K engagements or more for The New York Times overall in 2017. That 90th percentile line will probably drop closer to the “Organic” level in this table, or 1,700 engagements, a decrease of 75%.

While articles may still go viral, they will not have the benefit of promotion into the newsfeeds of millions of users who like a publisher’s brand page on Facebook. In the case of The New York Times, that’s over 15M people.

The investments made in Facebook brand pages have been significant. Some publishers worked hard to acquire their followers, and it’s unclear whether they will be able to do anything meaningful with those communities now.

Facebook adds that they will reward content that sparks conversations, “Page posts that generate conversation between people will show higher in News Feed.”

That may help some news orgs, but it will likely be relevant only to niche media or local communities. The change will be frustrating to everyone, exacerbating tensions with Facebook that have been brewing for a long time.

In Nic Newman’s recent report for Reuters Institute Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018 he found “high levels of concern about the power and role of platforms amongst around half (44%) of our news executives.”

The attempts by Facebook to build bridges with the news ecosystem appear disingenuous now. Though, of course, Facebook may change, as they often do.

There are several positive outcomes publishers may find as a result of this change. Anyone going through a review of their platform strategy will have stronger arguments for investing more in their own developments and working with partners who bring them real value. Perhaps that is long overdue, anyhow.

We’ll be following what’s happening here closely and will report what we find. Please let us know if you want us to look at your content, specifically. We can help publishers understand what the changes might mean for them and how they compare to others who are going through the same thing.

Contact: or reach us on Twitter @kaleidnet.