Facebook’s changing the news feed again to make it more “informative”


It’s a Thursday, so Facebook is probably changing its news feed algorithm. Correct!

This time, Facebook is adding a new signal to its algorithm to show people more “informative” stories. What does that mean? It sounds like it means cooking videos over cat videos, newsy articles over fluffy listicles.

“This could be a news article on a current event, a story about your favorite celebrity, a piece of local news, a review of an upcoming movie, a recipe or anything that informs you,” according to a company blog post Facebook published on Thursday announcing the change. The blog post goes on to say that “Informative stories are therefore different for each person and will likely change over time.” Helpful!

To figure out which stories are informative to which people, Facebook is relying on a focus group it can project across its 1.7 billion-person audience. Every day “tens of thousands of people” around the world in Facebook’s Feed Quality Program rank the stories in their feeds based on how informative they think they are on a scale of 1 to 5. Facebook then uses these rankings to guess at how informative other people will find those stories by checking the rankings against those people’s interests, such as what they post about; what posts they like, comment on and share; and their “relationship with the person or publisher that posted,” according to Facebook.

What the new “informative” signal means for Chewbacca Mom and exploding watermelon videos, I have zero idea. I guess Chewbacca Mom could qualify as toy news and exploding watermelons as science, so then they’re informative. But both also benefit from being Live videos, which is a whole other signal Facebook’s news feed takes into account and could counterbalance how informative they are.

What it means for brands and publishers, well, that depends on how full your glass is. It should mean that publishers and brands whose Pages are pushing substantive stories, like ones about reporting on breaking news or breaking down how to use a product, will be fine. At least so long as those breaking news posts are videos and those product how-tos aren’t super salesy (or even better, are ads). In other words, this latest news feed algorithm change probably won’t have much an impact, good or bad, for publishers who are already being compelled to post more videos and less clickbait and brands who are being compelled to pay up.

“We anticipate that most Pages won’t see any significant changes to their distribution in News Feed,” according to the company blog post.

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