Facebook’s news feed could soon feature higher quality content, as the social media giant shifts its focus to more relevant news for users in a move that could lift publishers’ website numbers.
Announced in a statement by Facebook, the initiative could be a welcome boost for publishers who have battled with getting Facebook viewing their websites, says The Sydney Morning Herald social media editor Georgia Waters.
“Facebook’s change should mean benefits for news organisations, who have been complaining of the difficulty in reaching page fans organically since Facebook made changes to its news feed algorithm last year,” Ms Waters said.
“Hopefully, this will mean news publishers will see the average reach of their posts grow.”
Fairfax has had a bumper year with social media, with one Newcastle Herald article going viral on Twitter, being shared by one of the site’s founders, and accumulating more than a million views.
Facebook traffic to publishers’ websites rises 170 per cent
A statement by Facebook engineering manager Varun Kacholia and software engineer Minwen Ji said referral traffic to publishers’ websites had increased by more than 170 per cent in the past year,
“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 statement said.
“Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories on mobile.
“This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your news feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”
Despite Facebook shifting its focus to what it sees as higher quality content, Ms Waters said that sites like BuzzFeed that capitalise on lists, humour and social content would not be disappearing.
“I don’t think the BuzzFeed model of viral lists is going away any time soon,” she said.
“That sort of content will continue to go viral, regardless of the treatment it’s given in Facebook’s news feed.”
Related links to also be introduced
The social media giant has also introduced related links to help users discover similar articles, which will be introduced under the new “high quality content” policy.
Ms Waters said she was not yet sure of how the related content would work, but predicted that more popular stories would feature more prominently.
“I can’t say for sure how Facebook will offer the ‘related articles’ recommendations as it hasn’t been rolled out yet, but I don’t imagine they’ll be asking publishers for permission,” she said.
“They’ll probably be using algorithms to determine what’s already trending organically, as they do for their ‘Stories to Share’ feature that alerts page owners to content that’s trending on their site.”