How does Facebook’s planned news-feed changes affect me? That’s the question 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’s 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 — including The Washington Post — 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 closed down 4.5 percent Friday, 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.