Only time, experience, and data will tell, but I wouldn’t be throwing out Facebook strategies for news quite yet.
Two things happened today: (1) Facebook for the first time outlined the principles that govern its decisions — that is, its News Feed algorithm — about what to select and show you. (2) At the same time, Facebook tweaked — we don’t know how much — that algorithm to emphasize friends and family more and news less.
But Facebook has *always* favored friends and family over news content. It is a *social* site. That should come as no surprise to anyone. The only question is how much weight each has.
Indeed, when Facebook’s execs told me their priorities in the past, they were (1) connections with people, (2) entertaining people, and (3) informing people. Its document today reversed the order of 2 and 3 in the narrative; I have no idea what the order is in the algorithm.
The shock at this news is, I suspect, a bit overdone. Says Farhad Manjoo in The Times:
Though it is couched in the anodyne language of a corporate news release, the document’s message should come as a shock to everyone in the media business. According to these values, Facebook has a single overriding purpose, and it isn’t news. Facebook is mainly for telling you what’s up with your friends and family.
Who the hell *ever* thought that Facebook’s single overriding purpose was news? No one. Ever.
So this is a matter of degree. It’s more transparent than it has been — which is what we have been asking for. It emphasizes that people want to talk to people on Facebook and if people want to talk about your news, you’re in luck. If they don’t, you’re shit out of luck. Always have been. Still are.
Let’s wait and see what the real data look like. And let’s follow Facebook’s example to serve people rather than merely serving content.