Face­book’s shift: What will change?

The com­pany plans to al­ter the way it de­liv­ers its news feed. The change in em­pha­sis, how­ever, might be bad for ad­ver­tis­ers.

The Washington Post - - ECONOMY & BUSINESS - BY HAY­LEY TSUKAYAMA hay­ley.tsukayama@wash­post.com

How do Face­book’s planned feed changes af­fect me? That’s the ques­tion that peo­ple asked Fri­day, a day af­ter the so­cial net­work’s an­nounce­ment. But the an­swer to that de­pends on whom you ask.

Face­book said that it’s shift­ing the fo­cus of its news feed to pro­mote “mean­ing­ful” posts, mostly from fam­ily and friends. The tweaks come amid an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion about how the com­pany can main­tain enough trust and in­ter­est to keep peo­ple re­turn­ing to its site and sup­port the ad­ver­tis­ers that pay its bills.

Peo­ple who use Face­book know that it has made sev­eral tweaks to its news feed over the years. And, for most, th­ese lat­est changes may be sub­tle. It’s likely you’ll still see news ar­ti­cles or even no­ti­fi­ca­tions about good deals promi­nently on your feed, as long as they’re posted by your friends.

What will change, how­ever, is the way Face­book pri­or­i­tizes what to show you first. In the past, Face­book has placed more em­pha­sis on serv­ing up posts that serve your in­ter­ests. Now, it will give more weight to those that, for ex­am­ple, have lengthy com­ments or that have oth­er­wise gen­er­ated a lot of de­bate.

What’s less clear is how th­ese changes will ad­dress Face­book’s prob­lem with false in­for­ma­tion on the site, as many sto­ries that spread are shared by users’ friends and fam­ily.

Still, in some ways, this new fo­cus takes Face­book back to its roots, hav­ing started as a way to con­nect stu­dents on col­lege cam­puses be­fore even­tu­ally al­low­ing all peo­ple to join in 2006. The move may help Face­book stem a drop-off in “or­ganic” posts — the kind that Face­book is now try­ing to high­light — that has been a prob­lem for the net­work for years, and has irked users who mostly want to use the net­work to con­nect with peo­ple they love.

But the changes may spell trou­ble for the ecosys­tem of com­pa­nies that have come to rely on Face­book’s plat­form as a way to reach po­ten­tial cus­tomers and read­ers.

Many worry that th­ese changes will cut off that vi­tal stream. And while Face­book has worked to pacify fears about th­ese changes, it has ac­knowl­edged that the changes will have a neg­a­tive ef­fect in the short term.

Camp­bell Brown, head of news part­ner­ships, warned that all types of Face­book en­gage­ment may “de­crease as the up­dates roll out over the next cou­ple of months” in a mes­sage shared on a Face­book group for me­dia pro­fes­sion­als.

The shift­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween Face­book and its pub­lish­ers could also sig­nal a bumpy road for the so­cial net­work's bot­tom line in the near fu­ture. Face­book makes the vast ma­jor­ity of its money from ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sored posts, af­ter all.

In­vestors were sour on the news. Face­book’s stock Fri­day closed down 4.47 per­cent to $179.37.

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.

“While the News Feed changes just an­nounced could be wor­ri­some in terms of an ad growth hic­cup, we be­lieve this over­haul was the right move for longer term user en­gage­ment and driv­ing ‘mean­ing­ful con­tent,’ which re­mains the core in­gre­di­ent in Face­book’s recipe for suc­cess for the com­ing years,” said Daniel Ives, an­a­lyst for GBH In­sights.

Face­book said that the changes will start rolling out within the next cou­ple of months.


Face­book has an­nounced plans to change the fo­cus of its news feed to pro­mote sto­ries that peo­ple will find more mean­ing­ful.

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