Facebook has been coming out with a series of News Feed updates recently that promise to affect how people consume news and the impact of content. Last Monday Facebook announced that its News Feed ranking system has been re-engineered so that high quality articles figure more prominently on users’ computer and mobile screens.
The News Feed will begin including more links to articles selected by its new algorithm update, especially on mobile phones. About half of Facebook’s users access the social media site exclusively through their mobile phones.
Facebook engineers Varun Kacholia and Minwen Ji commented on the updates on the Facebook blog: “Why are we doing this? Our surveys show that on average people prefer links to high quality articles about current events, their favourite sports team or shared interests, to the latest meme.” The algorithm update used to determine which articles are “high quality” is based on surveys showing that users seek relevant, share-worthy articles from reputable sources. The algorithm developed to detect this content, according to Kacholia, considers more than a thousand factors.
Facebook revealed in October that the increase in traffic of Facebook users to media sites grew over 170% from September 2012 to September 2013. In fact, referral traffic to Time, citing one example, went up 208%. These figures are fuelling Facebook’s ambitions to develop its role as a purveyor of news.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company is aspiring to provide its users with, “the best personal newspaper they could find.” Recent updates to the News Feed promote users’ finding, sharing, and discussing high-quality news articles. Users can expect more news referrals. Facebook’s engineering team reports: “To complement people’s interest in articles, we recently began looking at ways to show people additional articles similar to ones they had just read. Soon, after you click on a link to an article, you may see up to three related articles directly below the News Feed post to help you discover more content you may find interesting.”
Examples of recommended articles come from sources like The Atlantic and The Washington Post. These examples underscore the update’s commitment to delivering high quality, a condition content writing will need to meet for articles to appear prominently on Facebook’s News Feed.