Facebook Fundamentally Changes Its News Feed

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

Facebook is fundamentally changing its arguably most integral news feature in order “to bring people closer together and build relationships.”

But the modifications to the News Feed aren’t being received so well, at least by some, as Facebook shares fell more than 4 percent in pre-market trading Friday.

One of the primary changes is substantially limiting the amount of content from publishers, and in turn attempting to cultivate more organic social interactions between friends and family.

“Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his profile Thursday night. “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.”

Zuckerberg, in a way, tries to portray the move as a concession, saying he expects that people will spend less time on Facebook, while making engagement “more valuable.”

If people ultimately use Facebook less, then the ads viewed will also likely decreased, meaning investors and the company’s bottom line could conceivably take a hit, something at least temporarily evident in the stock market dip.

The effects of the alteration will stretch well beyond just Facebook, shareholders, and its casual users. Publishers, like media outlets and businesses, will likely find it more difficult to advertise products or promote content. Many such organizations are almost dependent on social media marketing, with Facebook, of course, having a very large stake in that industry.

Facebook admitted last month that spending “a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people –” leads to reports of “feeling worse afterward,” citing several studies. And the way in which people consume and treat content isn’t the only important reason for the decision, as the type of information, like disinformation, is also possibly a contributing factor.

Facebook’s network referrals to publishers in 2017 decrease significantly, while Google’s increased in an almost perfectly inverse fashion, according to Axios, with the correlation not surprising considering the dominance the two have in digital ad marketing. (RELATED: Facebook And Google’s Profits Aren’t Taking A Hit From Media Storm Over Russia)

Facebook received an enormous amount of flak for “fake news” on the platform, like during the probes into Russia’s election influence, even though the amount of ad dollars allegedly spent by the foreign adversary were fractional compared to the overall digital and political ad landscape.

“Campaigns spent hundreds of millions advertising online to get their messages out even further. That’s 1000x more than any problematic ads we’ve found,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that was both apologetic and defensive. “The data we have has always shown that our broader impact — from giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote — played a far bigger role in this election.”

And the diminished amount of news stories and other related content on the platform may have already started prior to the announcement Thursday.

“Half the people in our survey saw no news at all in the first 10 posts in their feeds — even using an extremely generous definition of ‘news’ that counted everything from celebrity gossip to sports scores to history-based explainers, across all mediums,” a Nieman Lab investigation found.

Facebook says users can readjust their respective News Feed preferences if they want to see more posts from pages and accounts they follow.

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