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Why The New Facebook News Feed Change Favours Users Over Publishers

Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

The media (and users) have been on Facebook’s case regarding the way it ranks posts in users’ News Feeds. Claims were made about non-transparency, promoting content that makes more money for Facebook, even claims about favouring certain ideologies. Not exactly a picture which one of the largest and most powerful digital consumer services would want to paint. So News Feed director, Adam Mosseri, sat down with journalists in Menlo Park last week to discuss how it all works and who the News Feed really caters to.

Facebook’s published News Feed values identify (among other things), that the News Feed should allow users to:

To stay in touch and connected with their friends and familyTo stay informedTo be entertained

Putting its money where its mouth is, Facebook announced forthcoming changes to its News Feed algorithm yesterday. It will now give higher priority to posts from friends and family compared to Pages like news outlets.

Facebook is trying to convey that consumers are in fact above commercial content publishers on Facebook’s priority list despite the latter providing revenue for the company. As cynically as some may react to this, it makes sense. Facebook has nothing without its users sticking around. And the News Feed is one of the most powerful facilitators for users to stay engaged on the platform. Whenever a growth tech company captures a significant share of its addressable audience the scales tip towards profit making, it is often tempting to start leaving consumers’ needs in the back seat. However, Facebook seems to remember it owes everything to its users – from data, through ad revenue, all the way to its huge negotiating upper hand with commercial content publishers.

Publishers Can’t, Shouldn’t And Won’t Fight This

The sheer concentration of digital users on Facebook’s platform means that it can afford to make changes in favour of the user and against publishers. Even though they provide revenue to Facebook, publishers have become dependent on Facebook . As users became addicted to getting their daily content dose on Facebook, publishers have grown increasingly addicted to getting their content on the platform. Now that consumers are used to getting content on Facebook, publishers can’t make a 180 degree turn and simply leave. Trying to drag users with them would mean adding Facebook to the list of competitors bidding for digital users’ time.

Will the changes hurt publishers’ reach? Probably in the short run. But it will also ensure that the views, which are served, deliver a much higher value to each consumer when they are relevant. With real consumer needs and preferences in mind, commercial prioritization will be reduced. .In the information access-enabled era, embracing quality (of both, content and reach) over quantity is becoming increasingly important. While adjusting to this may not be the easiest process for some publishers, they will come out with better relationships with audiences and stronger loyalty in the long run as a result, if they choose to do so.

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