Facebook Wants News Feed to Feature Less News (or Brands)

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Facebook News Feed

In a move with major impact on its users and on brands, Facebook said Thursday it is changing algorithm for the News Feed to de-emphasize posts or what it calls “public content—posts from businesses, brands and media” publishers. Now, going forward, News Feed priority will be given to posts from friends, family members and groups.

Currently, News Feed has been designed to share a mix of “public” content from brands along with posts by friends and family. But apparently it’s too much for users to handle, according to Facebook.

Facebook News Feed

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg describes it in a public letter, “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Zuckerberg is aware people may spend less time on Facebook as a result: “by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

It’s a move designed to boost user engagement, if not time spent on Facebook. The hope is that posts by people over companies will foster community, commenting, sharing and interaction. Its goal is to elevate posts that will spark conversations and “meaningful interactions” between Facebook users. The impact is it will demote the videos, news stories and business posts created by publishers, even if users have subscribed to their feeds.

Facebook VP Adam Mosseri, who oversees the Newsfeed team, told CNN the move represents a “rebalancing” of how Facebook’s algorithms rank items in the main feed.

“We think that we’re currently slightly overvaluing how much time people spend on our platform and undervaluing how many meaningful interactions they have with other people,” said Mosseri.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had vowed to “fix” the Newsfeed this year in the wake of criticism for enabling the distribution of “fake news.” But is he throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater? For users who rely on Facebook for news, even if they don’t comment or share brand- and media-created content, it will come as unwelcome news.

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg cited research showing the “well-being” of users is better served by connecting with friends and family than by “passively reading articles or watching videos.” The upshot: “I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

In the past, Zuckerberg would poll users (such as on changes to Facebook’s Terms of Service). And surely Facebook technology has reached the point where users should be able to personalized their News Feed and decide for themselves whether the people-centric vi. brand-inclusive  content would be right for them.

As CNN commented, “With more than two billion monthly users, any change Facebook makes can be a seismic event. This move, in particular, has the potential to rattle countless publishers and brands who rely on the social network to distribute and promote content.”


Zuckerberg’s note on Thursday:

One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.

We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience.

Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.

But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content—posts from businesses, brands and media—is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.

It’s easy to understand how we got here. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there’s more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what’s in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do—help us connect with each other.

We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being. So we’ve studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.

The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos—even if they’re entertaining or informative—may not be as good.

Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.

We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

For example, there are many tight-knit communities around TV shows and sports teams. We’ve seen people interact way more around live videos than regular ones. Some news helps start conversations on important issues. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience.

Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.

At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections. By focusing on bringing people closer together—whether it’s with family and friends, or around important moments in the world—we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent.

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