Facebook makes friends a priority in the News Feed

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg said on Thursday the company would change the filter for the News Feed to prioritize what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands.

Facebook says it will highlight posts you are most likely to engage with and make time spent on social media more "meaningful".

But the changes may spell trouble for the ecosystem of companies that have come to rely on Facebook's platform - including news organizations, bloggers and businesses - as a way to reach potential customers and readers.

Matt Navarra, director of social media at technology news site The Next Web, said people who used the platform to connect with friends and family were the "biggest victor out of this" but added that brands that relied heavily on Facebook for audience would be anxious about how it affected their ability to generate revenue. But too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience. Over time, Facebook will tailor the ads it shows you based on such feedback.

Now Facebook wants you to think about making sure your post is extra meaningful, and what the meaning of meaningful might mean to you, but most importantly what it means to Mark Zuckerberg's algorithm.

Mr Zuckerberg said the company had examined academic research on social media.

The company says that's similar to how people make friends and interact with each other offline. That means posts like a friend asking for advice, recommendations for a trip or an article that prompts interaction, according to a post by Facebook's head of news feed, Adam Mosseri. In that vein, it's unclear for publishers how Facebook's rules on "meaningful" content will affect them.


"If Facebook downplays "low quality" publishers, as is widely rumored, it could be a net positive for Gizmodo, Jezebel, The Root and our other brands", Narisetti said in an email.

Mr Zuckerberg said the shift in focus was likely to reduce "the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement", at least initially.

Here's a look at some of the ways the company has changed the posts appearing in users' customized news feeds, which launched in 2006, as well as some of the factors it uses in deciding what makes up those feeds. Less time, of course, means fewer advertising eyeballs at any given time. The company estimates that 130 million of its users are in such groups.

Nic Newman, a digital media strategist who authors the Reuters Institute Digital Report for Oxford University, said the move is "not unexpected" because "it's been a pretty awful year for Facebook in terms of its PR" - referencing the criticism the company has faced over "fake news" and its increasing dominance, alongside Google, of the online advertising market.

Facebook has been under fire for months for the proliferation of Russian-created "fake news" on the platform that may have impacted the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook tweaked its news feed in 2014 to clamp down on "clickbait", posts with grabby headlines like "you won't believe what happened next" yet ultimately disappoint. The changes could jeopardize that route to their audiences, though some speculate it could be a ploy to force these companies to buy more Facebook ads.

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