Dangerous Minds on Facebook's "bait and switch" for publishers: "I want my friends back"

Over at Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger writes about the damage to indie web publishers wrought by Facebook's ever-changing policies about who sees your content, and what it will cost you to get your content in front of people who've already signed up as friends/fans.

Spring of 2012 was when bloggers, non-profits, indie bands, George Takei, community theaters, photographers, caterers, artists, mega-churches, high schools, tee-shirt vendors, campus coffee shops, art galleries, museums, charities, food trucks, and a near infinite variety of organizations; individuals from all walks of life; and businesses, both large and small, began to detect—for it was almost imperceptible at first—that the volume was getting turned down on their Facebook reach. Each post was now being seen only by a fraction of their total "fans" who would previously have seen them.

But it wasn't just the so-called "fan pages," individual Facebook users were also starting to notice that they weren't seeing much in their newsfeeds anymore from the various entities they "liked"—or even updates from their closest friends and family members. Something was amiss, but unless you had a larger "data set" to look at—or a formerly thriving online business that was now getting creamed—it probably wasn't something that you noticed or paid that much attention to.

Richard goes into a lot of detail about exactly what happened and how, but the short version: Facebook's bait-and-switch around sponsored or "Promoted" posts is totally devastating to small publishers like Dangerous Minds who made the mistake of relying on that social network for business-sustaining web traffic.

At Dangerous Minds, we post anywhere from 10 to 16 items per day, fewer on the weekends. To reach 100% of of our 50k+ Facebook fans they'd charge us $200 per post. That would cost us between $2000 and $3200 per day—but let's go with the lower, easier to multiply number. We post seven days a week, that would be about $14,000 per week, $56,000 per month… a grand total of $672,000 for what we got for free before Facebook started turning the traffic spigot down in Spring of this year—wouldn't you know it—right around the time of their badly managed IPO.

And before you get too smug, remember there's nothing stopping other social networks or sharing services from doing exactly the same thing. It's never a good idea to depend on a single third-party platform to amplify your content, but that's what so many small online publishing businesses are stuck doing these days. Still, none of the major ones have behaved as egregiously and onerously as Facebook, and IMO, DM's absolutely right to call them out.

Facebooker, beware.

Read: "I want my friends back."

The guys at Dangerous Minds are inviting like-minded internet publishers to join the revolution, and send a message to Facebook—literally, in the form of an email, and/or by placing graphics on their websites or… their Facebook pages.

(Graphic at top via Dangerous Minds by Dimitri Drujchin, original photo Guillaume Paumier)