How Facebook is changing its news feed
Facebook is testing a major change to how we see the news feed when we log in to the popular social media network. Users in six countries—Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Slovakia, Serbia, Guatemala and Cambodia—will now be able to see a split news feed that moves everything except your friend’s posts out of the primary feed, and moves them to another feed called Explore. At present, this trial is limited to users in the six countries only.
The Facebook news feed is the proverbial landing page, every time you open the Facebook app on your phone or log in via the web browser on the PC. This hosts recent posts and updates from friends and family, updates from pages that you follow and groups that you may be a part of, targeted advertising, suggestions to follow pages and more. At present, what we see is a single consolidated feed that has everything in one place. But that will change, if this is something Facebook considers rolling out globally.
“The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content. We will hear what people say about the experience to understand if it’s an idea worth pursuing any further,” says Adam Mosseri, head of News Feed at Facebook, in an official announcement.
While this may be good news for most users, simply because of the more streamlined nature of the feeds, it does mean bad news for just about anyone who has a Page on Facebook. This means your favourite shopping website, the publishers you trust, your favourite football team—just about everyone will have to pay to show up as an advertisement on the primary news feed, and remain on your radar.
In the short term, this surely poses a challenge. Could users be motivated to go to the secondary news feed, known as Explore, to check out other posts and updates after seeing the updates from friends and responding to those posts? It might take time, but publishers would hope that becomes a habit soon enough.
This is a part of what seems to be a larger move to streamline the different facets of the news feed, perhaps with the potential to monetize these sometime in the future. Facebook recently rolled out the Watch tab in the US, which separates original and long-form videos to highlight good quality content and separate it from the lower quality click-bait content.
Not everyone is impressed by this though. Slovakian journalist Filip Struhárik, who works for the publication Dennikn, wrote on a Medium post, “Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach. Reach of several asked Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days. Sixty biggest Slovak media pages have 4 times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) since the test.” However, Facebook’s Mosseri clarifies, “There is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore.”
It will take time for the changes to stabilize. The best-case scenario for most publishers and content creators would be that Facebook abandons this experiment and things return to the way they were. However, fake news has been a massive thorn in Facebook’s side, and this could be one way of weeding that out. Also, Facebook changes algorithms from time to time, and after some variation in engagement initially, publishers then find that things stabilize eventually. At present, however, the big expectation is for users to flock to Explore in large numbers, which means content engagement will not get impacted.
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