Bug Leads To False Facebook Organic Reach Reporting

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A report from News Whip came out on Tuesday indicating that publishers experienced a significant drop-off in organic reach. This wouldn't come as a huge shock to most people considering that Facebook has already significantly hurt organic reach for many Pages over the past year and a half or so.

The report said:

A staff member at one major UK publisher described the reduce in engagement as a ‘Faceboocalypse’, and said that his team had noticed what he described as “a change to news feed algorithm which drastically reduced the reach of many news sites’ posts”. Another major global publisher also acknowledged that they had seen a fall-off in Facebook engagement in recent weeks.

NewsWhip’s data team noticed the reduction when analysing data for the biggest Facebook sites of February 2015. A wide range of top publishers, including BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Fox News and more seem to have been affected.

Apparently the whole thing was just a reporting bug. Mashable shares a statement from the company:

A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Mashable that the issue was entirely about a glitch in its own method of collecting data, and that posts still reached the same amount of people as before.

"We experienced an issue with Page Insights logging in February that failed to count some viral reach accurately. Importantly, actual delivery of posts was not affected by this issue; this was a reporting issue only. We identified and resolved this issue in early March and Page Insights are now correctly reporting organic reach. We apologize for any unintended impact this may have had to our partners," the spokesperson said.

Hopefully Facebook's not pulling an April Fools' prank. As Mashable points out, the false reporting led to some publications fearing that they had been demoted in Facebook's News Feed algorithm, which again, given events from the past year, would not seem that far-fetched.

While the bug may not have had any real consequences for publishers, it no doubt served as a reminder that you shouldn't rely on Facebook too heavily for your traffic, because they could still take it away at any time.

In fact, these days, Facebook is apparently trying to get publishers to let it host their content on Facebook itself. That's a whole other discussion.

Images via Facebook, News Whip

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.