Facebook’s Trending updates deemphasize personalization and leverage publishers

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Facebook is constantly refining their Trending tab. Today, the company announced a number of refinements that build upon the evolving feature.

The main elements encompass the addition of a publisher headline below each topic name, an improved system to determine what stories are trending and regional targeting of stories.

The headline addition simply alludes to the type of source that is being cited in the story. Similar to an older version of Trending where more information was provided, which was announced in September, this newer and very welcome change seems to indicate that people are appreciative of more context into a story; the change will likely also boost engagement.

This improved version seems to also suggest that less isn’t necessarily more and that Facebook has finally been able to algorithmically report on stories in a way that people can relate to.

trending-final-screenshot

Perhaps the most important topic for us is the identification of topics that are going to be trending.

As Facebook says, “Previously, topics may have trended due to high engagement on Facebook around a single post or article. With today’s update, we will now look at the number of publishers that are posting articles on Facebook about the same topic, and the engagement around that group of articles.” Not only does this help validate a story’s deserved Trending status, it should also capture broader global topics based on the validation from coverage across multiple news outlets. Never before has it been more important to be the entity who breaks the story.

The final item is perhaps the most frightening, as Facebook is doing without interest-based personalization, and its Trending topics will be more focused on regional interest stories.

As Facebook says, “this is designed to help make sure people don’t miss important topics being discussed on Facebook that might not show up in their News Feed.”

It certainly sounds like a respectable idea, but as Facebook is about the personal stories that touch each and every user uniquely, with its News Feed reflecting just that, it is a scary prospect to hear that the social network may be pushing stories on readers that they simply do not want. After all, in the aftermath of the inauguration, with thousands of posts trying to push away the politically motivated posts, perhaps it is a good idea for Facebook not to force-feed unwanted content.

This is ironic timing in the context of so many posts where people are voicing their dissent about news they are already trying to avoid, and the Trending announcement may cause all efforts to backfire.




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