Time Well Spent: Facebook’s New Focus On Friends Could Negatively Impact Publishers

In a strange twist, Facebook predicts that its latest news feed tweak will ultimately reduce the amount of time that users spend on its platform. But this is because—after some apparent soul-searching revealed in Zuckerberg’s announcement post—Facebook has shifted its focus to quality and not quantity. The world’s largest social network hopes to “make sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent” by prioritizing personal connections.

Zuckerberg and his team aim to achieve this by populating the Facebook news feed with more posts from friends and family rather than those from businesses, brands, and media. It appears that the news feed tests it conducted in November 2017 did in fact reveal this change is “worth pursuing further”.

In making the change, Zuckerberg states that Facebook hopes to bring people closer together and build stronger communities.

This is, however, clearly going to be tremendously complicated for Facebook: the platform needs to balance offering an intimate and engaging user experience to its core users, with providing an effective and profitable platform for the businesses that Facebook is effectively built upon. The shift will upset many of those businesses and individuals who have spent years building pages and cultivating online communities on the Facebook platform. Many of those pages will have spent money on ads and promoted posts in order to reach their goals, too, adding insult to injury.

This latest pivot may be an attempt by Facebook to distance itself from the complex situations that have plagued the platform over the last couple of years. Facebook’s attempts to position itself as a source of breaking news plunged the platform into complex discussions around fake news, echo chambers, hacking scandals, and brand safety concerns.

As Facebook prepares to testify on the spread of extremist content on Capitol Hill once again on January 17th, publishers and pages may observe a dip in the referrals that they receive from Facebook. It is critical that publishers keep a close eye on the situation to see how it evolves and impacts their traffic.

In many ways, this shift appears to be Facebook going back to its roots, and could be received as a welcome change by many of its 2 billion users. But could the platform truly alienate the businesses and pages that push its revenue? Could this change see Facebook’s Instant Articles platform lose even more ground to Google’s AMP Project? Time will tell.

Get some firsthand insight into the change by watching this video from Facebook about the change:

As the situation continues to develop, Marfeel will monitor developments and keep you updated, so be sure to subscribe to updates from the blog by using the form below:

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