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Facebook feed change sacrifices time spent and news outlets for “well-being”

Facebook is making a huge change to its News Feed algorithm to prioritize friends and posts that spark comments between them at the expense of public content, news outlets, and importantly, the total time spent and ads you see on the social network. CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook today, Im changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions. VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri tells TechCrunch I expect that the amount of distribution for publishers will go down because a lot of publisher content is just passively consumed and not talked about. Overall time on Facebook will decrease, but we think this is the right thing to do. The winners in this change will be users and their sense of community, since they should find Facebook more rewarding and less of a black hole of wasted time viewing mindless video clips and guilty-pleasure articles. And long-term, it should preserve Facebooks business and ensure it still has a platform to provide referral traffic for news publishers and marketers, albeit less than before. The biggest losers will be publishers whove shifted resources to invest in eye-catching pre-recorded social videos, because Mosseri says video is such a passive experience. He admits that he expects publishers to react with a certain amount of scrutiny and anxiety, but didnt have many concrete answers about how publishers should scramble to react beyond experimenting . . . and seeing . . what content gets more comments, more likes, more reshares. This video from Facebook examines the upcoming changes, rolling out over the next few months: As TechCrunch detailed in our deep dive on well-being last month called The difference between good and bad Facebooking, research increasingly shows that isolated feed scrolling can be harmful to peoples health while private chatting with friends and back-and-forth discussion of content can boost positive sentiments. On Facebooks Q3 earnings call, Zuckerberg said that Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits and today wrote that We feel a responsibility to make sure our services arent just fun to use, but also good for peoples well-being. Now Facebook is putting its money, and its News Feed, where its mouth is. Zuckerberg writes, Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. In a blog post detailing the algorithm change, Mosseri writes Facebook will prioritize posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to . .  Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means well show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses. In our conversation, he cited Oprahs recent Golden Globes speech as content that would fare better in the revamped feed. Live videos generating discussion, star social media creators, celebrities, Groups posts, local business events, and trusted news sources are other types of content that should get a boost. On the other hand, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. He tells me that Facebook needs to react to the way the world has changed around us, especially the explosion in video. Publishers will be forced to change strategies, and potentially lay off video staffers and those who produce quick-hit, low-quality content. Do we need more friends or news? The biggest point of contention about this change is likely that some media pundits and users will argue that seeing more news, even if it generates fewer comments than friends photos or celebrity ephemera, is what will actually bring the world closer together. Filter bubbles could potentially be strengthened by showing more posts friends, further polarizing a politically divided world. Zuckerbergs counter-argument also aligns with Facebook doubling down on what only it service, and not Twitter or news websites can offer. Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years Zuckerberg writes. Since theres more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of whats in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do — help us connect with each other. Facebooks hope is surely that the most important news still makes it into the feed because your friends actively discuss it, though that may be giving people too much credit. Plenty of users would rather gab about their social lives than net neutrality or the tax plan. Over time, Facebooks algorithm change may be necessary to promote social cohesion and make the Internet less exploitative and more meaningful. The specifics of how it moves in this direction may injure publishers whove built up businesses overly reliant on Facebook. But its rare to see a public company announce it will immediately weaken its own business to give its customers a healthier lifestyle. You can read Zuckerbergs post in its entirety below:

Facebook says it plans to transform the News Feed to promote “meaningful posts”

Facebook plans major changes to the News Feed in 2018 designed to promote more meaningful interactions, the company said Thursday. Facebook plans to promote posts that generate discussions over those that are passively consumed, it said. Company executives say they hope the changes will make people feel better about using Facebook, following a year in which critics have warned of its negative effects on society and high-profile former employees have distanced themselves from their creation. We feel a responsibility to make sure our services arent just fun to use, but also good for peoples well-being, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. Zuckerberg said that the vast increase in posts from publishers, both article links and video, had tilted the News Feed experience to something more passive and less satisfying. The changes announced Thursday are designed to favor posts that spur conversations. We will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed, Adam Mosseri, whose title is head of News Feed, said in a blog post. These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to — whether thats a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussion. Its not the first time Facebook has sought to rebalance the site in favor of friends and family. In 2016, the company announced it would favor posts shared by people you know over those shared by pages owned by publishers and other businesses. In 2015, it introduced changes that also reduced the reach of pages in favor of friends and family. The changes have been real, and the share of publisher traffic generated by Facebook has declined over time, according to publishers Ive spoken with. One way publishers have compensated for the decline has been to invest heavily in making videos — the much-derided pivot to video that is a joking obsession of Media Twitter. The reason is that until now, Facebook has tuned the News Feed to favor video in the feed over other types of content. The demand for video led to the proliferation of fast, cheap video, which meant lots of stock footage with captions over it. This sort of video is one of the obvious losers in todays announcement. If you like passively watching 90-second videos with the sound off, youre going to have to start looking at them elsewhere. Its tempting to view the changes as a potential solution to the way hoaxes and propaganda can spread virally on Facebook, even after a year of heavy criticism. And yet it seems possible that these changes by themselves would do little to address the issue. Fake news often goes viral precisely because of the strong engagement that it generates from partisans on both sides. This move could strengthen filter bubbles rather than weaken them. Zuckerberg said he expects that the changes introduced this year will cause people to spend less time on Facebook. By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down, he wrote. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.