Facebook has revealed plans to update its news feed algorithm to promote more content and posts made by close friends and family of users as it renews its focus on keeping people connected. This means that content posted by brands and publishers could now feature less prominently on the social media site.
In an official blog post announcing the news feed changes, Facebook said that it was aiming to make it easier for users to control their experiences and access authentic stories that resonate with them the most. It claims that the new algorithm will make ranking content more effective for the 1.65 billion people who use the platform each month.
Facebook has made a huge effort to entice brands and publishers during the last few years, and many now focus their marketing efforts on social media to drive engagement and expand their audiences. While this won’t be changing, it appears that Facebook wants to tip the scales back in favour of more personal updates and posts from people whom users know.
The good news for publishers is that engaging content that is shared and talked about the most will continue to feature heavily at the top of news feeds, though those who rely more on audiences from content posted directly on an official page could experience a drop in traffic.
An estimated 44 per cent of adults in the US read Facebook’s news feed every month, so the platform is an incredibly important outlet for news media companies such as The Washington Post and The New York Times as well as other brands. Data from Parse.ly also shows that Facebook drives 40 per cent of referral traffic to outbound news sites. Experts have noted that publishers invested in social media are worried about ongoing changes to digital platforms.
“There is now an expectation, in general, on the part of publishers that platforms will change, and that they won’t necessarily be informed how they will change,” the director at the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, Emily Bell, said. “This completely highlights how ownership of the user is a central tension between news producers and platforms.”