Mark Zuckerberg

  • Facebook will change its news feed so that people will see more updates from friends and family, and fewer organic posts from news publishers and brands.
  • It’s a drastic change for Facebook, which thinks that “passive” news consumption is bad for people’s mental health.
  • But it’s also a canny commercial move, analysts told Business Insider, because now Facebook can squeeze money out of publishers to appear in the news feed.
  • Many publishers get huge amounts of referral traffic from Facebook and might turn instead to Google as a more reliable platform partner.

Facebook has once again proven itself a massively unreliable partner to news publishers who need the site for referral traffic.

The company announced on Thursday that it would reduce the amount of posts from businesses and media in the news feed, and instead prioritise updates from friends and family.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “passively” consuming updates from media and brands wasn’t good for people’s mental health, and that the firm wanted to encourage people to post updates, comment on friends’ status, and share photos.

The thinking is that you don’t get much emotional nourishment from glancing through a stream of headlines, but you do feel happier when you’re interacting with your friends. That balance is currently skewed the wrong way in the news feed.

While Facebook’s stated goal of making people feel happier while using social media is commendable, it’s left publishers in the dark about what to expect.

Big media brands such as BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and — yes — Business Insider get huge amounts of referral traffic by publishing stories to people’s news feed from their brand pages.

According to December data from Parse.ly, Facebook accounted for 26% of news organisations’ traffic. More traffic makes these publications more appealing to advertisers, so anything that threatens those numbers is a big deal.

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