Earlier today, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, announced the end of the Facebook News Feed as we know it.
In a nutshell, public posts from brands, pages, and publishers are being diminished in a substantial way from the Facebook News Feed.
Here are nine things you need to know about the impending news feed Armageddon:
1. In the near future, page posts from brands and publishers will be scored differently from posts from friends.
Facebook determines which status updates you see and in what order they appear in your news feed, by calculating a post ranking score for each status update.
Currently, this algorithm optimizes for time spent onsite and looks at other engagement metrics such as “likes,” clicks, comments, and shares of posts. Basically, Facebook wants you to be glued to Facebook as much as possible.
Going forward, the weightings of signals in the news feed algorithm will change dramatically. Posts from family and friends will be much more prominent, and posts from publisher pages will be suppressed, as much as 5x.
2. Zuckerberg is doing it to save Facebook.
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg acknowledged the damage the Facebook community is causing in the world, saying “Facebook has a lot of work to do,” and has made fixing it his personal challenge for 2018.
3. The effect on post-engagement will be devastating.
Some are saying that this change isn’t a big deal, as Facebook organic post reach has been declining for many years now.
We estimate that currently, average page reach per post is approximately 2 to 5 percent–meaning that if 100 people opted in to “liking” your page, only two to five of them are likely to see one of your posts.
But Zuckerberg says that publisher posts in aggregate still account for most of the content people see in their news feed. This is because publishers push out substantially more updates than regular users do (e.g., 10, 100, or even 1000 per day). So even if individual post reach is low, Facebook overall still generates an enormous amount of free exposure for brands.
Since Zuckerberg is saying that Facebook would like most updates to come from friends, we estimate that publishers will on average see an 80 percent reduction in page reach, clicks, and engagement. We view this as a devastating new reduction in publisher engagement, despite falling engagement rates over the past few years.
4. Time spent on Facebook will plummet.
Zuckerberg says that “by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.”
5. Ad prices will skyrocket.
Zuckerberg adds: “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.” This is true not only for users but also advertisers.
If people are spending less time watching funny videos and consuming fake news on Facebook, it means that there’s going to be less ad inventory to purchase. Furthermore, desperate brands and publishers will likely resort to spending more on Facebook ads to revive their dead organic post reach. The combination of decreased supply of ads and increased advertiser competition will most certainly yield.
We estimate that Facebook ad costs have increased by approximately 41 percent in the past year, given the increased popularity of Facebook ads alone. The new change could increase ad prices by substantially more going forward.
6. Facebook acknowledges that spending time browsing videos and news on Facebook is bad for your health.
Zuckerberg explains that the news feed is bad for your brain: “We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being. So we’ve studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.”
The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long-term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.
7. Publishers that resort to engagement-baiting will be punished.
Many advertisers bait users into engaging with their content with offers that promise a coupon code or other incentive for liking a publisher post, as a way to manufacture artificial engagement. Going forward, Facebook says, these tactics will result in demotion of post rank.
8. Meaningful discussion among friends matters the most.
Facebook says that “liking” a post is just a passive activity and is therefore a less meaningful signal to use for ranking purposes. The company intends to prioritize posts on the basis of how much meaningful discussion they spark. For example, posts that require longer-form responses and subsequent follow-up replies from your friends are the type that will do well.
9. Users can still opt into seeing posts from the pages they follow at the top of News Feed.
Users who want to see more posts from pages they follow or help ensure they see posts from certain pages can choose “See First” in News Feed Preferences.