Facebook wants to keep improving the user experience on its platform by featuring more posts from close friends and family rather than posts from Pages. This means that the amount of content from the public profiles created for media publishers, brands and celebrities followed by a user will be limited, the company announced Wednesday.

Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said the firm’s priority would always be maintaining the News Feeds as relevant and interesting as possible. The decision was made after many active users told the company that they often missed important posts from close friends since they often did not appear in their News Feed.

Photo credit: Bree Brouwer / Tube Filter
Facebook wants to keep improving the user experience on its platform by featuring more posts from close friends and family rather than posts from Pages. Photo credit: Bree Brouwer / Tube Filter

“The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong,” Mosseri recently told reporters in an interview, according to The New York Times. “We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”

But the latest changes are making online publishers worry that many Facebook users, especially those with many connections, will now be significantly less likely to be exposed to their content.

Publishers relying on Facebook’s Instant Articles for traffic on their pages will be affected. Released last year, the service allows publishers of all sizes to post their articles directly to the social media site, making the reading experience much faster and enjoyable. The new changes to the algorithm will lead users to be less exposed to those articles.

A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center showed that about 44 percent of adults in the United States regularly read news articles on Facebook, which proves the dependence publishers and news media firms have with the site. Moreover, data from digital publishing analytics company Parse.Ly revealed that Facebook alone is the source of more than 40 percent of referral traffic to news sites.

Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook, admitted that the algorithm’s update might lead to a decline in referral traffic and reach for some public profiles, particularly those with little interactions.

However, users who decide to like and follow media companies tend to do so mainly because they are interested in their content, as noted by Rich Gordon, professor and director of digital innovation at Northwestern University, according to a report by USA Today.

Facebook’s communication with publishers might need to be more transparent

Gordon suggested that the News Feeds could highlight more online profiles of news outlets than celebrities or other public organizations so users can read news articles without being disturbed by a bunch of other posts. The professor also addressed the fact that Facebook executives need to be more transparent about the algorithms given the big reliability publishers have on the site to generate an extraordinary amount of revenue. He said the company should explain them better how exactly users will be exposed to their posts on the site.

“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,” said Emily Bell, director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, as quoted by The New York Times.

The News Feeds update will not affect those publishers who rely mostly on individual users who share and comment on their videos and stories. If a user’s friend is sharing content from a publisher, then that post will appear higher in the feed compared to posts a publisher shares directly. Encouraging users to share their content and interact with them is a strategy that most online publishers should more fiercely adopt in these days of uncertainty about the future of their relationships with Facebook and their deals on referral traffic and ad revenue.

Source: New York Times