Back in early 2014, researchers from Princeton University made a stunning claim. They said within three years, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) would lose 80% of users as interest in the social networking flames out in spectacular fashion. The group explained “Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological model,” with the researchers comparing the rise and fall of Facebook to the rise and fall of MySpace.
Some FB stock holders were understandably concerned at the time, but anyone who knows the Facebook story even moderately well knows the company has done nothing but dish out stunning growth during that three-year period.
Facebook stock hasn’t been a bad performer either, rising 155% since the report was first published.
What if, however, the premise was right and it was only the timing that was wrong?
FB: Unimpressed Partners
Just to preemptively unruffle the feathers of faithful Facebook fans, no, even a worst-case scenario for Facebook stock wouldn’t likely even come close to living up to Princeton’s dire prognosis. It never hurts to look at things through a different lens though, just for the sake of knowing.
With that as the backdrop, it’s at least curious that a handful of FB’s advertisers and publishing partners are less than thrilled with their results using the social networking giant’s platform.
The Chicago Tribune was the first major venue to (publicly) make note of decrease in the amount of reach the news stories posted at Facebook were getting. Whereas at the end of last year a typical story would be read between 25,000 and 50,000 times, now views numbering between 4,000 and 6,000 weren’t unusual.
Were it just the Chicago Tribune, it might be a dismissible anecdote. It wasn’t just the Chicago Tribune though. The Guardian — a U.K.-based publication — stopped using Facebook’s Instant Articles publishing platform. The explanation offered was a simple “We have run extensive trials on Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News to assess how they fit with our editorial and commercial objectives. Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing in those formats on both platforms.”
The abdications started around the same time Facebook changed its news feed algorithm, putting the focus on user-generated content, and de-prioritizing brand-generated content.
Owners of FB stock need not run for the hills just yet. The social networking giant is still growing its user base and still adding advertisers. That’s not going to change anytime soon. Indeed, a growing disinterest in reading and sharing publishers’ articles may largely be a function of the fact that the election and inauguration hubbub has settled down.
It’s also important to note that publishers aren’t necessarily the core of the company’s success.
Nevertheless, the frustration of publishers may be something worth bearing in mind, as it aligns with the long-touted theory that ‘Facebook fatigue’ is inevitable. That is, user satisfaction with FB is starting to measurably wane, as the site has become overwhelming and purposeless, not to mention a waste of time.
It’s something publishers may already be seeing the ill effects of, even if Facebook itself isn’t.