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Publishers worry after Facebook updates its News Feed

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World News Publishing Focus
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Publishers worry after Facebook updates its News Feed

The biggest change is that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm will rank more highly posts from friends and family, which will seemingly happen at the expense of content from brands, including news media.

Facebook acknowledges the impact on news content, saying that traffic may decline for some Pages. The size of the drop will depend on activity with the content: if a lot of people share, like and comment on it, their contacts will be more likely to see it in their News Feeds.

While some in the media have expressed upset that Facebook would seemingly devalue news organisations by giving their content secondary importance, others have pointed out that while Facebook has collaborated with news publishers, news has never really been part of its main mission.

Still, it is undeniable that even if Facebook doesn’t see itself as a news site, at least not primarily, it has become a major source of news for many people. Writing for the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo says that the change should be taken in the context of Facebook being the “most powerful force in the news industry”, when measured by traffic, advertising revenue and influence on the media overall. “[H]ow should we react to the fact that for millions of Americans, Facebook has become the most important source of news about the world?”

Meanwhile, NewsWhip published article that focuses specifically on the implications for the news media, noting the importance of “organic sharing”: as long as users share, comment and like news stories, they are likely to be promoted in News Feeds. “What is likely to change is the way that readers find those stories. The update means that what your friends post will have even more resonance in your feed, while pages that you like, but don’t interact with all that much will probably do a disappearing act.”

Jay Rosen points out that for a long time Facebook maintained that there is no editorial control on its part, saying that users are in control, despite the fact that users had no specific information on how the News Feed algorithm works or how to influence it. In that sense, the publication of the News Feed Values is a start on “beginning to define some editorial priorities”. Rosen says that now that the company is public about the values to which it is committed, it needs a public editor to handle complaints and get answers when it falls short.

Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis puts the news in perspective by pointing out that Facebook’s main mission has never really been news. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is of the same opinion saying that the move must have been guided by an analysis of what keeps people using Facebook. If content from friends do better than hard news, then they are prioritised, as there is no commitment on Facebook’s part to cater to news organisations’ needs specifically.

Techcrunch has published a detailed explanation of the changes and their implications.

A big reason that probably motivated the publication of the News Feed Values are the loud calls for Facebook to be more transparent about its processes, following the news about editorial control behind its Trending News section.

However, despite opening up about prioritisation based on the source of the content, Facebook still maintains that it doesn’t exercise editorial control: “We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about,” wrote Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of Product Management, News Feed.

Mosseri also said that users would get more control over the personalisation of their News Feeds in the future: “As News Feed evolves, we’ll continue building easy-to-use and powerful tools to give you the most personalized experience.”

If Facebook will allow for greater personalisation, perhaps news publishers’ next aim will be to convince their audiences to explicitly signal their interest in news content on Facebook – at least until Facebook changes the algorithm again.


Teemu Henriksson's picture

Teemu Henriksson


2016-06-30 13:49

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