January 21, 2018

Facebook is about to make a huge change to your news feed

13 January 2018, 09:41 | Edward Lowe

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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 spend on Facebook will be more valuable. — Mark Zuckerberg

"This is understandable as brands and publishers have spent a lot of money over the years to build a presence on the platform and supplied Facebook's walled-garden with content to fuel its News Feed".

Facebook said it's shifting the focus of its news feed to promote "meaningful" posts, mostly from family and friends.

Facebook has been under fire for months for the proliferation of Russian-created "fake news" on the platform that may have impacted the 2016 presidential election. "In our view, making the feed more relevant should boost user and engagement growth over time".

Facebook and companies from Twitter to Apple have been confronting a mounting public backlash against technology and social media, as the public grapples with a constantly connected life in which they are exposed to fake or biased news, cyber bullying and even internet addiction.

The company also faces pressure from regulators in the USA and overseas, and a growing backlash from academics, lawmakers and even early executives and investors about the ways in which social media may be leaving us depressed, isolated, bombarded by online trolls and addicted to our phones.

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Facebook said its new ranking system would hurt non-advertising content from publishers and brands, like news stories and viral video posts, but not change the ranking of advertising that has been paid for.

Facebook's stock price dropped nearly 6 percent on Friday morning before regaining some ground.

Analysts said that Facebook's revenue is likely to take a hit in the short term but added that this step to make its network seem more authentic is probably necessary for the company to keep people's trust over time. Less time, of course, means fewer advertising eyeballs at any given time.

Facebook has been doing very well financially. Zuckerberg already signaled this would happen late past year, when he said the company's planned investments in preventing abuse would hurt profitability. At least, that's what the company hopes.

He cited academic research indicating that interacting with loved ones is crucial to a person's wellbeing, while reading news articles or watching shared videos may not be.

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"Facebook is already experiencing declines in consumption and the company is responding with these changes today", Wieser said.

Facebook has trained individuals, brands and publishers to rewire their brains towards an instinctual pursuit of what they believe will capture that satisfying like or lucrative share.

European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager on Friday (Saturday NZ Time) said allowing advertisers to tailor political content to personal tastes on social media such as Facebook was a danger to democracy, according to interview in Vienna's Der Standard newspaper.

Despite some turbulence, Facebook appears to have weathered the storms so far. "It has never been this black and white", Stelzner said.

Do you enjoy arguing with people you disagree with? We gravitate toward people like us. Its decisions about what users see has major implications for not just its 1 billion-something user base, but also for the news organizations who've made social media a major, if not dominant, part of their online strategy. Of course, this is hard to verify independently, since the company doesn't often show that data to outsiders. "But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable". This latest move, however, will de-emphasize videos too.

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While analysts were sanguine, some users, particularly publishers, were anxious.

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