Brazil's largest newspaper to cease posting on Facebook

Brazil’s largest newspaper said Thursday it has stopped posting content to Facebook FB -4.77% after the social-media website overhauled its news feed last month to prioritize personal interactions over journalism and some other types of content.

Folha de S. Paulo, a São Paulo daily with 285,000 print and online subscribers, said the decision came as a result of “internal discussions about the best ways to get its content to readers.” While Facebook users will still be able to share Folha stories, the newspaper said it would no longer publish content on its Facebook page, which has 5.76 million followers.

The decision is among the most visible responses yet by a traditional publisher to the newsfeed shake-up in one of Facebook’s most important countries, where 122 million users log into the website a month.

Folha De S. Paulo said it realized Facebook’s waning importance as a source of online readership even before the social-media platform changed its algorithms in January Photo: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg News

The newspaper said it realized Facebook’s waning significance as a source of online readership even before the social-media platform changed its algorithms in January to prioritize users’ posts, photos and videos. In less than a year, Facebook’s share of referrals to news websites has fallen from more than 40% to less than 23%, according to Parse.ly, a company that tracks digital audiences for many news organizations.

Camila Marques, Folha’s audience editor, said Facebook’s contribution to Folha’s online traffic had fallen but is “way less” than the general number provided by Parse.ly, noting that the social-media company isn’t among the top five sources of referrals to Folha’s site. As Facebook’s share has dropped, Google and other search engines have become an increasingly important source of traffic to news websites.

Folha’s move Thursday was the latest sign of tension between newspapers and internet companies like Google and Facebook, which are drawing advertising revenue that once flowed to media firms.

In an editorial, Folha accused Facebook of attempting to “co-opt” media companies into its Instant Articles program, in which publishers transfer content to the social network for free in exchange for speedier page loading and access to advertising revenue. The newspaper also highlighted concerns that Facebook’s newsfeed changes would “reinforce users’ tendency to increasingly consume content for which they have an affinity, creating bubbles of opinions and convictions, and propagating ‘fake news.’”

In a statement, Facebook said it is “taking decisive steps to make sure the news people see…is informative and high quality.”

“We are committed to building an informed community, and we continue to work with publishers in Latin America so they can leverage our platform to connect with their audiences in meaningful ways,” the company said.

Brazilians’ reaction to Folha’s announcement, which it posted to Facebook, as animated and included thousands of comments that reflect increasingly polarized views about politics, the news media and social networks.

Facebook user Gil Fonseca accused Folha of undermining leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s hopes of returning to power. Another user, Edvaldo Lopes, charged the paper with “denigrating the [political] right.”

Jeff Benício, a columnist for news and entertainment website Terra, applauded Folha in an opinion piece for “rebelling” against Facebook, which he said has become a platform for propaganda and radicalism.

“Other news organizations should follow Folha de S. Paulo’s footsteps,” Mr. Benício wrote. “If there’s a mass exit, the social network will lose relevance and become what [defunct social networking website] Orkut was: a virtual space for family and friends to joke around.”

Corrections & Amplifications
In less than a year, Facebook’s share of referrals to news websites has fallen from more than 40% to less than 23%, according to Parse.ly, which tracks digital audiences. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated those percentages referred to Folha’s site.

Appeared in the February 9, 2018, print edition as 'Brazil’s Biggest Daily Ends Facebook Postings.'