Facebook’s Newsfeed Gets Updated
Facebook yesterday unveiled their new newsfeed, comparing it to a personalised newspaper. Before you read anything else, if you want to sign up to be among the first to use the new format, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page. Now that that’s outta the way, we can move on to the impact this is going to have.
Facebook views the newsfeed as one of it’s most important features. It’s no surprise that they’ve put a lot of time and effort into making this happen. Here’s their official release about the change. They’ve been working on the new format for over a year, so the revamp predates their IPO. In a way, this whole process has been driven by phones, and the cameras on em.
The changes show a homogenisation across screens. They’ve taken interface learnings from mobile and applied them across the board. It could mean that they’re trying to prep current desktop users for the mobile experience. When you also consider the role mobile advertising played in helping ad revenues increase 36% year-on-year to $4.27bn in 2012, perhaps they’re hoping some of that performance can be replicated on desktops.
Facebook wants people to spend more time on the site than they already do (an average of 22 minutes apparently) and considering the majority of that time is on the newsfeed, and the majority of that content is visual, it makes sense to optimise the one for the other.
The new newsfeed has bigger images and is more visually oriented than it used to be, giving prominence to imagery, even when visuals are secondary to other elements of the content. Links for example, will be accompanied by a massive thumbnail, and users’ timeline covers will also feature alongside their profile pic when they appear in the newsfeed. Even check-ins will be accompanied by a map. They’ve clearly moved from text-dominant to image-dominant, or at least been pulled in that direction by the users.
They’ve given users the ability to control the content they see by enabling them to view different feeds (up to 20). This makes perfect sense: the newsfeed used to have no cohesion and was everything at once. I’m interested in my friend’s activities, and current events, and sports, and film and music but that doesn’t mean i want to see all of them mashed together. Given the proliferation of curation occurring in other platforms, Facebook is playing catchup by putting the control of what they’re looking at back in the hands of the user. But that catchup move could easily turn into a game of leaprfrog. The filtration is at a rudimentary level, separating friends from likes and images, it’s not a long reach to see how, combined with their recent announcement about graph search, users could conceivably tailor their newsfeed using a combination of criteria to create a stream matching their exact desires. It makes even more sense when you consider that Facebook’s success hinges on balancing two seemingly diametric opposites: Users need to enjoy the platform, and advertisers need to get ads in front of eyeballs that result in clicks. Making the interface more attractive and more customisable satisfies both of these, because if I’m reading a feed of my friends’ sporting activity from the weekend an an ad for a energy drink comes up, I’m not upset.
It’s still unclear how much flexibility the new look will allow advertisers (could the friend feed be ad free?) and how this setup might create new advertising opportunities, there’s plenty of speculation on whether more time using the new platform will translate into more revenue generation. It might simply mean happier users, which is no bad thing.
In the meantime, brands need to make sure they continue to get the basics right: creative that connects, engagement the user appreciates, and adding value to the experience rather than interrupting it. The analogy to newspapers is an omen for brands and marketing: creative that interrupts the conversation rather than joins (or better yet, inspires) it is going to be ignored, and that’s not Facebook’s fault.
Image via David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images, by way of Mashable