Facebook scraps News Feed split ‘experiment’

Facebook has called time on its short-lived news feed split following criticism from users.

Less than six months after starting the ‘experiment’ in six markets – including Sri Lanka and Cambodia –, the social giant has back-pedalled on the ‘Explore’ feature, which saw publishers’ content moved into a separate and less visible news feed.

However, in a blog written by Facebook’s head of news feed Adam Mosseri, the company omitted any reference to publishers’ criticism and instead focused on user feedback.

He wrote:

“You gave us our answer: People don’t want two separate feeds. In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn’t actually help them connect more with friends and family.

 “We think our recent changes to News Feed that prioritize meaningful social interactions better address the feedback we heard from people who said they want to see more from friends and family. Those changes mean less public content in News Feed like posts from businesses, brands, and media.

“We also received feedback that we made it harder for people in the test countries to access important information, and that we didn’t communicate the test clearly. We’re acting on this feedback by updating the way we evaluate where to test new products, and how we communicate about them.

“Separately, we’re also discontinuing the Explore Feed bookmark globally this week. Explore gave people a new feed of content to discover Pages and public figures they hadn’t previously followed. We concluded that Explore isn’t an effective way for people to discover new content on Facebook.”

Facebook noticeably chose smaller countries with emerging markets to carry out the test, a sentiment that was not lost on local publishers.

Speaking to Mumbrella at the time, Visal In, the co-founder of Cambodian news site Khmerload, said: “Most Cambodian people are very active on Facebook. The population are not too big and not too small. It is a perfect testing ground for them. Perhaps, there won’t be much to lose if [they] test it here.”

He added that although he felt the changes were “unfair” and affected his site’s reach, traffic remained unchanged.

Following the news of the test, Facebook played another hand seemingly against publishers globally when it changed its algorithm to downgrade posts from media outlets and brands in favour of posts from friends and video content.

Mark Zuckerberg said at the time: “I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable. And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too.”

This week, women-focused platform LittleThings announced it was shutting following Facebook’s algorithm tweaks.

Commenting on this in his weekly media report, The Splice Newsroom’s Alan Soon cautioned: “Live by the platform, die by the platform.  LittleThings reached 50 million uniques in just three years by sharing feel-good content on Facebook. Now, not so much. This is what happens when you try to build your house in someone else’s backyard.”


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