Your Facebook News Feed is about to get a makeover. That’s because the social network announced Wednesday that it is tweaking the computer software that controls what you see in your feed to favor posts from friends and family more than those by companies or publishers.
In a statement issued by Facebook, the company’s engineering director, Lars Backstrom, explained that the change is being made after users of the social networking behemoth told the company that they were afraid they were missing important updates from the people that matter to them most.
Facebook previously updated the News Feed to put more of an emphasis on photos, videos, status updates and links posted by friends and family. But according to Backstrom, many people are still afraid of missing out on those posts, so the company is once again updating the News Feed to more regularly surface your connections’ posts.
That’s good news for regular folks, but for publishers, it could be a serious problem. Facebook is one of the main avenues through which many readers find and read news and other online content. In fact, according to Digiday, 41% of all referral web traffic comes from the social network, putting it second to Google’s 48.3%As a result, Facebook has teamed with content publishers such as the New York Times on its instant articles initiative. The network is even paying publishers to create content for its Facebook Live streaming service.
For publishers that rely heavily on having their content appear in Facebook users’ news feeds, the change could be a serious issue. The company admits that the News Feed update could result in a decline in both referral traffic and the number of people who see publishers’ posts. If a publisher is particularly reliant on users seeing their posts, they could see a decline in readership.
Facebook notes, however, that if a publisher’s post is shared by a user, it will get the same treatment as one of their own posts and have a better chance of showing up in that person’s friends’ news feeds.
The social network also pointed out that it is working to cut down on the number of click-bait articles that appear in users’ feeds. Click-bait articles are those misleading spam articles that exist simply to get you to click on them without providing much in the way of actual information.
Attached to the press release on the News Feed update was a secondary release from Facebook explaining how it curates posts for users’ News Feeds. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the release follows the controversy surrounding an article by Gizmodo, which reported that individuals working for the site “routinely suppressed” conservative news in the social network’s Trending Topics section — a part of the social network that’s accessible from its desktop site and separate from the far more popular News Feed.
In its release, Facebook states that it is a platform for all ideas and does not favor specific viewpoints over others.