Facebook Tests News Feed Changes

Perhaps making it harder for publishers to reach readers, Facebook is testing a dual-feed system, which silos posts from “friends” and those from followed Pages.  

Separate and apart from Facebook’s standard News Feed, the new “Explore” feed is being tested in small markets such as Bolivia, Cambodia, Guatemala, Serbia, Slovakia and Sri Lanka.

“People have told us they want an easier way to see posts from friends and family, so we are testing two separate feeds, one as a dedicated space with posts from friends and family and another as a dedicated space for posts from Pages,” a company spokesperson stated.

While not surprised by the move, analysts are questioning Facebook’s motivation.

“Facebook is continuously tinkering with its consumer offering, hoping to add value and improve the experience,” Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester, said Monday.

“Excluding the publishers that Facebook consumers follow from the main feed will only serve to diminish the overall consumer experience, though, since consumers have come to view Facebook as their source of information about their family, friends, interests, and the world at large.”

Other critics say the test signals a move toward a world in which publishers will have no other choice but to pay to reach Facebook users.

“With Facebook undergoing these tests, it just shows how important paid advertising is going to become,” said Jason Beckerman, cofounder and CEO of data management platform Unified.

More broadly, “It’s impossible to forget just how vital [Facebook] has become for media and news distribution,” Beckerman added.

While Facebook is often accused of disrupting the news business, analysts argue the tech titan has a stake in their success.

“A strong publisher community is ultimately good for Facebook, because people are more likely to share quality content,” Brian Wieser, a senior analyst at Pivotal Research, recently said. “Facebook is looking for synergistic opportunities with publishers.”

To that end, the social network recently confirmed plans to begin testing a news subscription service over the next few weeks.

Publishing partners include The Boston Globe, The Economist, The Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle, La Repubblica, Le Parisien, Spiegel, The Telegraph, The Baltimore SunLos Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and The Washington Post.

Offered through Facebook’s Instant Articles initiative, the subscription service will support a paywall for metered models.

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