Although many news organisations are frustrated by Facebook's algorithm changes and limited direct monetisation opportunities, they still concentrate their resources on the platform for social media distribution and audience engagement, the latest study from The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has found.

Based on 21 interviews with editors and mangers at 12 newspapers and commercial broadcasters in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the UK, Private Sector News, Social Media Distribution, and Algorithm Change found that the impact of the Facebook's algorithm changes has varied amoung news organisations, with those posting more content seeing less decrease in audience interaction – and in some cases, growth.

French publisher Le Monde was found to have been hit the hardest with a 32.5 per cent drop, unlike the 13.6 per cent rise found at The Times.

The report discusses how Facebook continues to be seen as a powerful driver of on-site traffic through referrals and source of off-site reach through native formats, such as Facebook Instant Articles or auto-play videos, as well as driving digital subscription sales.

“Because of news organisations’ increasing reliance on social media and the like, the opacity of how they operate, and news media’s lack of control over how such platforms change their strategies and technologies, this can lead to dramatic headlines about potential 'apocalypses' or the like,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

“This kind of rhetoric is not helpful. It suggests that the news industry is a helpless victim, where in fact people are working hard to make the most of a difficult situation, and often have very real results to show for their efforts."

Key findings of the study suggest the number of interactions relative to the number of followers is on average more than ten times higher on Facebook than on Twitter.

Twitter, on the other hand, is valued as a way of generating off-site reach and visibility through breaking news, with limited contribution to traffic, audience engagement and digital revenues.

In terms of other platform options, Instagram is seen as a potential entry point to access younger audiences according to the study — a similar tactic reported by Journalism.co.uk employed by The Economist and the Telegraph with rival platform Snapchat.

Finally, newspapers and broadcasters have not found effective ways to monetise content directly through any social media platform they use. Instead they focus on indirect monetisation through converting on-site traffic through advertising and by selling subscriptions.

Want to improve your social media reach? We are discussing how to overcome Facebook algorithms at our upcoming newsrewired conference on 7 November at Reuters, London.

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