Facebook Overhauls News Feed to Prioritize Personal Relationships

Mark Zuckerberg -Annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference -Getty-H 2017
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"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use but also good for people's well-being," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Facebook is introducing a significant overhaul to its News Feed that will place a greater emphasis on posts from friends and family in the stream that users see when they log into the social network. 

The move, announced Thursday, means that articles and videos from brands and publishers will be de-prioritized in the News Feed. 

"One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. He acknowledged that many of Facebook's more than 2 billion monthly active users had expressed frustration over the amount of third-party content they were seeing as they scrolled through their feeds. 

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use but also good for people's well-being," he added. 

A big part of the motivation behind the News Feed overhaul is Facebook's effort to refocus on posts that spark "meaningful interactions between people," Zuckerberg noted. He pointed to conversations around television shows or news as ones that can start worthwhile discussions. But, he added, "Too often today, watching video, reading news or getting a page update is just a passive experience." 

In a blog post that accompanied Zuckerberg's message, Facebook head of News Feed Adam Mosseri warned that public Facebook Pages could see their reach, watch time and referral traffic decrease. The change is likely to encourage publishers to work to create content that is more interactive and less passive. 

Zuckerberg also noted that overall time spent on Facebook will likely decrease as a result of this change. "I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable," he added. 

The News Feed update comes after several months in which Facebook has drawn criticism for the influence it has over its users. The social network did little to stop the spread of Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election, for example. Since then, Zuckerberg has made it a priority to clean up the platform and make it a better environment for Facebook's users. 

Until this point, Facebook has been increasingly emphasizing video content in its News Feed. It was all part of the company's effort to build up its video advertising business, commanding higher CPMs than typically run on text-based websites. It is unclear how the News Feed changes will affect its video relationships with partners, but already the company had been pulling back on funding the live video and short clips that appear in feeds.

Instead, Facebook has been encouraging producers to create Show pages via its new Watch video platform. Most of that video content is not promoted in News Feed but can be found by clicking on the Watch tab.

Facebook has been known to make changes to News Feed that at first cause discord with its user base. The News Feed itself initially faced a huge backlash when it launched in 2006. Now, it is considered a staple of the Facebook experience. 

"At its best, Facebook has always been about personal connections," wrote Zuckerberg. "By focusing on bringing people closer together — whether it's with family and friends, or around important moments in the world — we can help make sure that Facebook is time well spent."