I’m looking at a photo of my older brother, drunk in a bar in Bavaria with a napkin on his head.
I don’t really want to be looking at him, but I don’t have any choice as it’s at the top of my Facebook feed.
The alternative is looking at the post below him, which is a photo somebody’s put up of their son’s new bed.
What I’m not seeing is much in the way of regional news, either from our group or from the others I follow.
It’s an unscientific, but also probably fairly accurate, reflection of the impact of Facebook’s latest algorithm tweaks which have resulted in a sharp decline in the amount of traffic it sends to publishers’ websites.
We have, media friends, been ‘deprioritised.’
In December, we saw a month-on-month decline in Facebook referrals to KentOnline of 14%. Others have reported declines of up to 30%.
Update: Hours after I published this post, my fears were all but confirmed in a message from Mark Zuckerberg.
A report into the issue by the Press Association caused a bit of a stir this week.
You can read Press Gazette’s summary here although the even shorter version is that any publisher that has relied too heavily on Facebook for its audience – and thus its revenue – is probably screwed.
For some time, the industry has been stamping its collective foot and demanding that Facebook compensate it for stealing its traditional advertising streams and exploiting its content.
It’s not a view I’ve ever really subscribed to.
There are loads of reasons to dislike and distrust Facebook.
I live in hope that one day people wake up and realise the benign social media platform they willingly share every detail of their life with is really a gigantic surveillance operation, which views them as nothing more than a piece of geographical data to be targeted with an advert.
But I worry the constant demand for ‘content compensation’ is one of the reasons for the latest algorithm adjustment.
Is it a case Facebook flexing its muscles and saying: ‘You need us more than we need you – and to prove it we’re going to hide all your content?’
Ian Murray, executive editor of the Society of Editors, echoed my fears we may end up in a lose-lose situation.
He told Press Gazette: “There are elements within the publishing world who would wish Facebook to go away.
“In fact it could be the worst of all worlds – they’re not going away but they’re not basically offering the lifeline, the conduit back to the publishing industry, in the way that they have.”
So what’s the solution? To my mind, it starts with us all weaning ourselves off the obsession with a ‘my reach is bigger than your reach’ approach to our digital audiences.
Now more than ever we need to be focusing on our USP.
Local, engaged audiences – whatever their size – who instinctively trust our journalists to report on local life are what matter. It’s the one thing we can do that Facebook can’t.
If that means we lose that fickle, flirtatious element of our audience who click on our social links without giving a second thought to who has provided the material they are reading then it’s probably a price worth paying.
While I’m on the subject, Google is often lumped in with Facebook as the second evil twin threatening our industry.
It’s undeniable that Google’s business model presents an existential threat to traditional media – but hey, they also provide some really funky tools for making journalists’ lives easier.
Google seems willing to work with publishers in a way that Facebook simply doesn’t.
Vincent Ryan from Google News Lab took time out to visit Kent this week to demonstrate their latest tools to my KM colleagues.
It was simultaneously inspiring, informative and terrifying and I’d urge anyone with an interest in where things are heading to follow @googlenewslab or visit https://newslab.withgoogle.com – it’s going to be quite a ride.