Facebook has once again tweaked the algorithm which determines what users see in their news feed. Going forward, that content is going to consist more and more of updates from friends and family, with considerably less news stories.
“Facebook was built on the idea of connecting people with their friends and family,” says Facebook’s VP of Product Management, Adam Mosseri. “This is still the driving principle of news feed today. Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.”
This change, which will be rolled out imminently, comes in response to concern from the user community that they are “missing important updates from the friends they care about,” according to Engineering Director, Lars Backstrom.
This isn’t great news for digital publishers whose proportionate referral traffic from Facebook can be as high as 40 per cent. “Overall, we anticipate this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some pages,” writes Backstrom, in an official blog post. “The specific impact on your page’s distribution and other metrics may vary depending on the composition of your audience.”
Recent additions to Facebook, including ‘Instant Articles’ and the ‘Live’ streaming facility, look likely to be affected by the new algorithm as well.
Facebook has already faced criticism earlier this year over its curation practices; certain reports claimed that its ‘Trending’ topics were selected by human editors rather than algorithms, and were therefore subject to bias. Facebook has denied these claims, stating: “We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about. We are in the business of connecting people and ideas — and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful.”
This week also marks the first time that Facebook has officially outlined its news feed values, which prioritise friends and family, and centre on the twin missions of “inform” and “entertain.”