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My never-ending fight with Facebook 

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Cafébabel

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We’re launching a series of informal articles written by Cafébabel staff to explain the changes the magazine is going through. Most importantly: a new editorial line, new sections, new plans, new faces... in short, it's a whole new world!

Have you ever tried fighting an algorithm? It’s kind of like doing shadow boxing or literally striking water with a sword. If I had to choose a pop culture reference, I would say I’m a bit like Edward Norton in the Fight Club scene where (spoiler alert) he thinks he’s fighting Brad Pitt, but he is actually throwing uppercuts to himself.

Devising a social media strategy for an independent media outlet is not smooth sailing. It’s a vicious journey, like white water rafting. Facebook recently changed its algorithm to favour posts from our “close ones”, our friends and our family. The result? Posts from media outlets like ours are gradually disappearing from our reader’s newsfeeds. Sometimes, we depend on Facebook for more than 60% of traffic to our articles. So we had to get organised. That’s why we have diversified our means of promoting our articles with a bi-monthly newsletter and a community Facebook group.

 This example is perfect to describe exactly to which extent independent media outlets like ours are subject to the woes and goodwill of social media giants. At one point, it came close to being an addiction. We are far from being the only ones, but we constantly had to adapt our content to Facebook. First in terms of format: square photos, mobile-adapted videos. Then in terms of content: we had to produce “engaging” and “entertaining” content that would invoke some lols. In 2017, we went so far as to recruit a video editor to respond to this new need. We had to relearn everything we had learned to do in the past, translate our content into videos and basically reinvent ourselves.

Last year, we spent a long time thinking about and executing a new social media strategy. Today those efforts seem futile, all because of a simple change in Facebook’s algorithm and a post by Mark Zuckerberg. At the beginning of the year, I still felt like I was fighting windmills. But after mulling it over, I decided to welcome the changes as being something excellent. In 2018, I finally stopped relying solely on Facebook to make Cafébabel known. We will, of course, stay active on social media, but we’re going to devote more time prioritising new subjects and fresh formats and present them to you on different platforms. We want to build something original and focus on new ways of participating, new services, new events and new partnerships.  

It’s up to us to invent new ways to disseminate our content, but this crusade against algorithms has taught me a few things. In the team, we have a better idea of who are readers are as well as our contributors and what they aspire to. With or without Facebook, the real challenge this year will be to gather a genuine community interested in participatory, in-depth and offbeat European journalism.

Are you in? 

Translated from Ma guerre lasse contre Facebook

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