Saturday 20 January 2018

Facebook overhaul will reduce commercial posts

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/PA Wire
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/PA Wire

Ben Riley-Smith

Facebook users will see fewer posts from businesses and brands in the future after the company announced the biggest overhaul to its news feed for years.

Messages and photos shared by friends and family will take priority instead.

The move is an attempt to make users more engaged with the site by having "more meaningful social interactions".

However, it raises serious questions for companies that have invested heavily in using Facebook pages to drive traffic to their websites.

Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, appeared to admit on Thursday that people who "passively" read Facebook posts and videos from businesses were left feeling less happy than when reading content from friends.

Mr Zuckerberg said he expected people to spend less time on Facebook as a result of the changes - a frank admission from a business leader - but predicted it would boost the company in the long term.

The changes fell short of a more radical move to split Facebook's news feed in two, which had been expected by some in the industry.

That innovation, tested in some countries in recent months, would have left commercial posts sitting on a completely separate feed from the main one. Mr Zuckerberg outlined a less absolute change in his post that will see commercial content de-prioritised rather than removed from the news feed all together.

The shake-up comes as Facebook, which now has more than two billion users, battles critics who have accused it of allowing fake news and Russian propaganda to circulate.

The US election in 2016 saw a string of adverts making misleading or factually inaccurate statements about political candidates gain traction on the site.

Mr Zuckerberg initially dismissed criticism of how the site was used in the aftermath of Donald Trump's victory, but has since pledged to make changes.

There have also been complaints that the news feed - a stream of messages, photographs and videos - increasingly features posts from companies rather than friends.

Irish Independent

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