Facebook changes its news feed to focus on family and…

Facebook said Thursday that it is tweaking what people see to make their time on it more “meaningful.” The changes come as Facebook faces criticism that social media can make people feel depressed and isolated

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.

Nic Newman, a digital media strategist who authors the Reuters Institute Digital Report for Oxford University, said the move is "not unexpected" because "it's been a pretty awful year for Facebook in terms of its PR" - referencing the criticism the company has faced over "fake news" and its increasing dominance, alongside Google, of the online advertising market. Every user sees a different set of content and ads, ranked and tailored based on their characteristics, what they click and what their friends do.

The move follows declining traffic from the social network to publisher websites throughout 2017.

That will leave businesses that want publicity on Facebook no choice but to spend more on advertising, and as a result prices will climb, predicted Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, which advises corporate brands on social media. "They don't think there are any real cracks in the Facebook story".

Adam Mosseri, Facebook's Head of News Feed, also put out a statement that said the social network would "prioritise posts that spark conversations" and "To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed".

In a post on Thursday (Friday NZ Time), CEO Mark Zuckerberg said community feedback had shown that public content has been "crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other". In the company's early years, the news feed was a scrolling update about the personal activities of friends and family members.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg AP File

"If Facebook downplays "low quality" publishers, as is widely rumored, it could be a net positive for Gizmodo, Jezebel, The Root and our other brands", Narisetti said in an email.

"If this change is as significant as they describe it, news organizations will go out of business or succeed based on a change that they didn't necessarily have input on", Kint said. "It reads as something that will drive up engagement and probably push away policy risk, because they're not allowing news properties to have the same sort of presence in their feeds".

John Ridding, the chief executive of the Financial Times, warned on Friday that the domination of online advertising revenue by search and social media platforms was putting pressure on media firms. The company estimates that 130 million of its users are in such groups. Since then, Facebook took various steps trying to prevent fake news from becoming viral via Facebook. "The publishing industry has been notoriously slow to adapt to the rapid and constant changes brought about by social media platforms", he said. Facebook accounts for about 17 percent of visits, on average, to the digital companies he advises, he said.

Facebook has previously been criticised for algorithms that may have prioritized misleading news and misinformation in people's feeds. "People are frustrated with the Russian Federation revelations and fake news and have taken it into their own hands and stopped engaging".

Admitting that its changes will likely reduce the time people spend on Facebook less was a big deal for the company. And for most, these latest changes may be subtle.

Nearly half of USA adults get at least some of their news from Facebook, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.

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