Digital Media is Hard (Long Algorithmic Disruption)

Women-focused dIgital publisher, Little Things, a producer of Facebook-based feel-good content (think recipes), announced yesterday that it is shutting down after failing to find a buyer. If it had a First Day Declaration in a bankruptcy filing, it could theoretically start with “What Facebook Giveth, Facebook Taketh Away.”

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook ($FB) has been under a bit of scrutiny lately. Something to do with bots, Russians, influenced elections, and heaps of societal division. So, recently, Mark Zuckerberg announced a tweak to the Facebook algorithm meant to prioritize friends and family content in your newsfeed and de-emphasize other content - including media content. This, naturally, is a big problem for media brands native to the Facebook platform. How big? Quantifiably big: Little Things apparently lost 75% of its organic traffic. Revenues and profit took a corresponding plunge. Yes, tech can obviously disrupt tech too. That’s the beauty of being the platform as opposed to be ON a platform.

In the company’s words,

“Unfortunately, as we were receiving those offers a full on catastrophic update to Facebook's algorithm took effect. The prioritization of friends/family content over publishers was the last straw. Our organic traffic (the highest margin business), and influencer traffic were cut by over 75%. No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation. The position it put us in was beyond dire. The businesses looking to acquire LittleThings got spooked and promptly exited the sale process, leaving us in jeopardy of our bank debt covenants and ultimately bringing an expedited end to our incredible story.”

Ouch. Like we said, media is hard.