This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.
Yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced big changes to the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what posts you see and what you don’t (a moving target that is a big source of frustration among media organizations). From the NYT: “Facebook has introduced sweeping changes to the kinds of posts, videos and photos that its more than two billion members will see most often, saying on Thursday that it would prioritize what their friends and family share and comment on while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands. The shift is the most significant overhaul in years to Facebook’s News Feed, the cascading screen of content that people see when they log into the social network. Over the next few weeks, users will begin seeing fewer viral videos and news articles shared by media companies. Instead, Facebook will highlight posts that friends have interacted with—for example, a photo of your dog or a status update that many of them have commented on or liked.”
- “The changes are intended to maximize the amount of content with ‘meaningful interaction’ that people consume on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview. Facebook, he said, had closely studied what kinds of posts had stressed or harmed users. The social network wants to reduce what Mr. Zuckerberg called ‘passive content’—videos and articles that ask little more of the viewer than to sit back and watch or read—so that users’ time on the site was well spent.”
- “Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family. And bogus news may still spread—if a relative or friend posts a link with an inaccurate news article that is widely commented on, that post will be prominently displayed.”
- “The goal of the overhaul, ultimately, is for something less quantifiable that may be difficult to achieve: Facebook wants people to feel positive, rather than negative, after visiting.”
WHAT IT MEANS: This might be a selfish concern, but Facebook’s move has big implications for news generators. Put simply, it isn’t good news for local media outlets, many of whom are already struggling. At many media
, Facebook generates about half of the total web traffic. With fewer clicks, our companies get fewer ad dollars, which makes it harder to fund our journalism. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook have hoovered up so much of the digital advertising market [Emarketer.com] that, again, making your online product sustainable, no matter how good your content, is already difficult.
- NYT: “The repercussions from Facebook’s new News Feed changes will almost certainly be far-reaching. Publishers, nonprofits, small business and many other groups rely on the social network to reach people, so de-emphasizing their posts will most likely hurt them. Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management at Facebook, who is responsible for running the News Feed, acknowledged that ‘there will be anxiety’ from partners and publishers who often complain about the constant changes in what will be shown across the network.”
- Media professor Jeff Jarvis [via Medium]: “I’m worried that now that Facebook has become a primary distributor of news and information in society, it cannot abrogate its responsibility—no matter how accidentally that role was acquired—to help inform our citizenry. I’m worried that news and media companies—convinced by Facebook (and in some cases by me) to put their content on Facebook or to pivot to video—will now see their fears about having the rug pulled out from under them realized and they will shrink back from taking journalism to the people where they are having their conversations because there is no money to be made there.”
- “I wish that Facebook would fuel and support a flight to quality in news. Facebook has lumped all so-called ‘public content’ into one, big, gnarly bucket. It is dying to get rid of the shit content that gets them into political and PR trouble and that degrades the experience on Facebook and in our lives. Fine. But they must not throw the journalistic baby out with the trolly bathwater. Facebook needs to differentiate and value quality content—links to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, and thousands of responsible, informative, useful old and new news outlets around the world.”