In October, Facebook reported that the social network’s average referral traffic to media sites, such as those reporting current events, was up 170% since 2012. In response, Facebook will be incorporating such media reports into users’ news feeds.
On December 2, 2013, the social network released the blog “News Feed FYI: Helping You Find More News to Talk About.” Varun Kacholia, Engineering Manager, and Minwen Ji, Software Engineer, explained that “high-value” articles will become more prominent than memes, as keeping up with the world is a growing priority for Facebook users. When a link to the article is activated, related articles will appear beneath the original, furthering users’ knowledge.
As user’s friends comment on the article link, the article will be bumped up to the top of the newsfeed. Kacholia and Ji expect this will start conversations between users, keeping the article on the news feed longer, thus gaining more views and more activity. This is another way to get users to interact with each other while keeping them up to date with current events.
Mashable, “the top resource and guide for digital culture,” posted the article on their Facebook page at 11am, and it has been receiving less than positive feedback. A middle-aged male user of Austin, Texas, best sums up the response: “Stupid, unnecessary, and certainly NOT geared to what we want to see in our feeds. FB long ago abandoned our own preferences to focus on their stock price.” A younger female user writes: “People don’t come to Facebook for news… This is supposed to be a ‘social’ site, intended for people to connect and ‘socialize’ with friends.” Some users neglect the fact that although Facebook is labeled a “social” network, it is a business that hosts other businesses, all with the aim to generate sales. This new update is a business tactic for Facebook to give the majority of users what they want, and to stay ahead of its close competitor, Twitter.
It’s no surprise that users are up in arms about unrequested content showing up in their newsfeed. It’s safe to assume that such comments are not generated by those who tripled Facebook’s average referred traffic to media sites. Despite this reaction, there’s no reason to believe that Facebook’s users will go on strike! Just as when advertisements made their way to our sidebars, users who are not looking forward to this change will quickly block out the “noise” and continue to “LIKE” as many memes as possible before those become obsolete.