Not quite feeling the love from Facebook these days? If you're a media brand, you might think Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to destroy your business. 

Facebook is testing a new newsfeed system that would exile publishers' content to a no man's land known as the "Explore Feed."  This would effectively put an end to the media's ability to reach its followers without paying for the privilege. 

This test is running in six countries currently, but I would be shocked if it doesn't go wide in 2018--and if it doesn't drag traditional brands in as well. After all, many companies are well on their way to becoming publishers themselves.

So what is this Explore Feed, anyway?

On its surface, it's an interesting tool for you to discover brands and publishers through Facebook. This feed currently features recommended content from feeds you don't follow (as opposed to your newsfeed, which holds posts from friends and pages you do follow), including posts, articles, photos, and videos. 

Facebook's shift would take content from publishers you've chosen to follow from your newsfeed and move it over to the Explore Feed. And before you say, "What's the big deal?" think about how many times you scroll through your newsfeed during the day versus the Explore Feed. Probably rarely...if ever. 

The result is a watered down Facebook Feed that only features articles media brands have paid (begrudgingly) to promote. 

How Would This Change Affect Brands?

While this new system is still in test mode, and Facebook claims it has no immediate plans to go wide with this (let alone mention of brands just yet), we can all see where this is going, right? 

At Masthead Media, we've been telling our clients for a while that social media is becoming pure pay-to-play. Brands have been battling plummeting organic engagement rates for a few years now, and trying to figure out the right mix between earning--and paying for--interaction with their own followers on social media. 

While this new move by Facebook is primarily targeted at media brands, companies who develop social content (aka, everyone!) should also see some pretty clear writing on the wall. After all, brands are becoming publishers in their own right--they definitely shouldn't rely on social to drive organic traffic to their site for much longer.

This is why it's even more critical for them--and for you--to invest in the creation of high value, well-optimized content on owned channels (including blogs, newsletters, podcasts, and even custom print publications), and only pay to promote the content that's already starting to show real organic traction through social.