by Graham Pierrepoint
Facebook – you can’t avoid it. There rarely seems to be a week that goes by without Mark Zuckerberg’s big blue social network making the news in one form or another. Home to billions of users, the network is still the reigning champion of social media – having largely revolutionized the concept following the MySpace boom of the early 00s – though it has made large steps in recent months and years in an attempt to stay relevant with an audience that may well be drifting over to other platforms. Instant social media services such as Snapchat, for example, are making their own strides in capturing young users’ attentions – and Facebook famously attempted to purchase the brand, only to be knocked back. They are, of course, in charge of pioneering brands such as WhatsApp and Oculus Rift – but it seems that even the slightest of changes to their own user interfaces can have a habit of setting a few people and businesses quaking in their boots.
Facebook are currently trialling a new newsfeed feature called Explore – which will allow you to look into stories and items that may be of particular interest to you based on your previous usage and interests that you have already made public. This is all well and good – but with an advanced version of the proposed feature having been trialled in Serbia, Slovakia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Cambodia and Sri Lanka – it seems that publishers looking to appeal to users with an ‘organic’ approach are particularly flustered by propositions.
It seems that the new version of news feed – the so-called Explore – will outright wipe the feed barring friend posts and the usual sponsored items – meaning that news publishers could be expected to pay premiums for advertising outright as opposed to reaching their target audiences in natural ways. Several journalists and firms, naturally, reacted rather angrily to the news of such testing – though Facebook personnel were quick to ensure that word reached the media such testing would not persist.
Newsfeed boss Adam Mosseri advised in a public post that “(Facebook) currently have no plans to roll this test out further” – while further indicating that such movements took place in an effort to try and see if people preferred separate spaces for different types of content. This still means that the platform could still be looking to make news a less social matter – and while no action may be taken right now, this could be a wakeup call for journalists and platforms everywhere.