A News-Free News Feed: Why This Matters
More than two-thirds of Facebook users rely on the platform for their news, but this could soon be changing.
At the moment, our feeds are filled with the news we choose to read, but Facebook has plans in the works to remove these sources – even the ones we’ve ‘Liked’ – in favour of updates from our network of friends and family members.
Out of all news websites’ traffic sources – social media, email links and people typing in the site’s URL – Facebook is definitely the largest. Statistically speaking, this social media giant is gives news sites even more traffic than Google does (39 versus 34 percent). This translates to thousands more readers for the outlets, who may otherwise struggle to attract users to their site.
Facebook’s changing algorithm means our News Feeds may soon be a little less diverse.
Instead of giving us the latest news from the papers and other news sources, Facebook is planning to focus on updates from our friends and families. In some ways, this makes sense. Typically, we’re friends with people who share the same interests as us, and we normally have similar political opinions to our families. And we have no problem with this. Studies show we seek information that reinforces our beliefs and the new update just plays into this.
It also means that we won’t be getting diverse opinions and robust information though. Clearly articles from actual news sources are better researched than your friends’ posts, and we may be missing out on some valuable insight if Facebook took them away.
What’s more, the news sources themselves may lose out on valuable traffic and revenue from the ads that are on their sites. It seems like a bad situation, with only Facebook themselves emerging victorious.
Why is Facebook doing this?
The move comes just as Facebook begins to push advertising streams, meaning that if news sources want to see their articles on people’s screens, they had better get used to paying for the privilege. Even if you’ve interacted with the publisher – say, liked their posts or written a comment – you won’t be able to see their posts unless they choose to boost the content. This means more ad revenue in Facebook’s pocket and a more controlled way to decide what happens on the News Feed.
This could also be Facebook’s response to some recent controversies. The social network has been under fire for seemingly preferencing some posts over others, revealing some strong political allegiances. In the US, many conservative news sources have seen their articles supressed in favour of more liberal outlets, indicating an alleged left-wing bias.
Facebook says that the main reason for the change was that it began as a way to connect with the people we love most. Now, they want to take our feeds back to the time of authentic communication.
They say that nothing will be lost in the user experience journey – we’ll still be able to hide and unfollow, and choose to see things first – but this will be restricted to the content from our friends.
Most importantly, the social network will constantly innovate and change their algorithms. The new friends-only update isn’t set in stone – instead, Facebook will be seeking feedback and testing how users engage with the platform before committing one way or the other. One thing is for sure, though. We’ll be seeing less news in the future.
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