Facebook Gives Digital News the Backseat; Makes Friends and Family Priority

Facebook has just dropped a bomb on digital publishers. According to a released statement, the Facebook news feed would more prominently feature friends and family posts rather than those from digital news organisations. This spells bad news for the media organizations since about 40% of the referral traffic to publishers is driven by Facebook.

Facebook’s focus seems to have shifted from digital news and media towards its roots again. In a statement released on Wednesday the social network said that it was updating its algorithms to feature posts from friends and family more prominently. The reason for this change was information gathered in several surveys that said users wanted to see more “friend” content.

This move comes after the highly publicized deal Facebook made with media networks like Mashable, the New York Times, CNN and Buzzfeed as well as celebrities like Gordon Ramsay, Deepak Chopra and Kevin Hart to publish live videos on the site. The deal reportedly featured 140 contracts and came to a total of $50 million. This included 17 contracts that were valued at over $1 million.

Social media has become a key source of news for the younger generation (25 year olds and under) according to a survey by the Telegraph and Facebook is a big part of that world. Just last year it introduced ‘instant articles’ which allowed articles to be published directly on the site leading to faster access. Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard commented that Facebook had always told publishers and companies to cultivate large followings but over time that has mattered less and less. I confess that a lot of news I get has been from Facebook, in fact I’ve built a library of news organization pages that report the daily news to me so I don’t have to open up the TV or even any other app on my cell phone.

To reverse this effect or at least alleviate it, publishers will have to open up their wallets and pay to reach more people via the ‘reach more people’ option like mere mortals do. But what will this mean for the site as a whole and its users? Well for starters, if they start seeing more and more posts from friends and family, it is likely that they’ll see a whole lot of content they want to see. Which is a very bad thing. News outlets and digital publishers at least kept bringing up information that as a whole challenged people’s points of view; opinion pieces and news reports that offered a global perspective. What this move has done has narrowed that perspective down. On a general level, Facebook just went from perceptive to myopic.