Facebook is to change how its news feed works, making posts from businesses, brands and media less prominent.
Instead, content that sparks conversations among family and friends who use the site will be emphasised, explained chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on his page.
Organisations on Facebook may see the popularity of their posts decrease as a result, the firm acknowledged.
The changes will take effect over the coming weeks.
“We’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other,” wrote Mr Zuckerberg.
It’s 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 knowover 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 I’ve 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 today’s announcement. If you like passively watching 90-second videos with the sound off, you’re going to have to start looking at them elsewhere.
As Facebook sends them less traffic, publishers have been diversifying away from Facebookand fishing for traffic on other platforms such as Google, Apple News and Twitter. Another downgrade in the news feed is likely to accelerate publishers’ shift in resources away from Facebook. Even some of Facebook’s strongest publisher boosters express mounting frustration. “We’re losing hope,” said one.
Last year, Facebook tested a newsless news feed called the Explore Feed in six countries outside the U.S., causing publishers to freak out and spurring speculation that Facebook would replicate that approach in the U.S., despite Facebook saying it didn’t expect to roll out the test further. Founder Mark Zuckerberg has publicly acknowledged problems wrought by technology, including misuse and abuse of the platform, which has amplified the spread of hate-filled content and misinformation and has been used to attempt to influence voters in the presidential election. Facebook has made a number of moves to stamp out fake news, but their results have been mixed.
Another big downgrade in the news feed won’t necessarily come as a shock to publishers, but it conflicts sharply with Facebook’s public stance about how it’s trying to help publishers. That was the stated aim of the year-old Facebook Journalism Project, which Facebook launched to much fanfare about helping support publishers’ business models.