How Should Facebook Tell People About News?

People get a lot of their news from Facebook, but what news should they get?
People get a lot of their news from Facebook, but what news should they get?

Image Credit:
Jurgen Appelo

So here’s an interesting question for you. If I was to ask you where people spend the most amount of time when they are on the Internet, where would you say that they go? Google? Yahoo? A sports site like ESPN? Those are all good guesses, but you’d be wrong. The correct answer, not all that surprisingly, is Facebook. A lot of people go to Facebook each and every day and they spend a lot of time there. What this means is that if you are in the business of trying to provide news to people, Facebook is very important to you.

How Facebook Provides People With News

The Facebook web site does a lot of different things. It allows you to connect with friends, you can post photos and videos, you can even chat with people. The primary thing that a Facebook user sees when they log into Facebook is called their Timeline. This is basically a chronological stream of all of the new material that their friends are either posting or “liking”. What can also happen is that the companies that provide online news can have their stories added to your timeline and if the story interests you, you’ll click on it and be taken to their website.

You can well imagine how important this stream of customers is to these news sources – Facebook has a lot of users! By some estimates, Facebook is responsible for driving more that 40% of the visitors that online news sources get. Since Facebook plays such an important role in getting people to visit their site, more and more online publishers are expanding their presence on Facebook even as they express some concerns at how powerful Facebook has become.

The Facebook product managers ran into a news problem a while back. They revealed that actual human beings are involved in selecting which news stories show up in people’s timelines. The problem that came up is that the bias of these humans meant that some news stories where not being selected. The company has since changed how stories are selected in order to remove this bias. Changes like this are important if you want to keep your product manager resume up-to-date.

How Facebook Product Managers Are Improving Their News Feeds

The Facebook product managers realize that their news feed system is not perfect. Because of this they are always making changes to its product development definition . The company announces changes when they are made. The news algorithm is tweaked quite often. Over the past two and a half years, the algorithm has been changed roughly once every month. The goal has been to make the news feel less promotional and repetitive.

The Facebook product managers have recently made a significant change to their news feed algorithm. This change is going to affect what the 1.65 billion users of Facebook see when they log in. What the company has decided to do is to prioritize content from friends and family over content from news publishers. What the product managers are trying to do is to get users to spend more time on the site.

What this change is going to mean for newsfeed publishers is that they may see a change in the number of visitors that their site gets from Facebook. Facebook has said that some publishers may see visitor counts go up, some may see them go down, and some may see them go down even more. Facebook is also going to be working to favor what they are calling “authentic” posts and not “clickbait” posts that are just trying to get people to click on the post.

What All Of This Means For You

Being a product manager at Facebook has to be a tough job – your decisions can impact what 1.65 billion users experience when they come to your website. No product manager job description will tell us how to go about doing this. However, because so many people visit the site and because the average user spends 50 minutes per day on the site, the news feeds that users can get placed into their timelines are very important to users and to the digital newsfeed publishers.

Facebook has an algorithm that helps its human news story selectors determine which news stories should be seen by Facebook users. This algorithm is always being changed to make it better. A recent change will cause stories from friends and family members to be higher priority than news stories. This may end up decreasing the number of visitors that the news feed publishers get to their sites.

The goal of the Facebook product managers is to provide their website visitors with the best experience possible each time they visit the website. Part of this includes providing them with the up-to-date news that people actually want to get. We’ll have to see how this latest change affects both users and the news feed producers.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: If you were a newsfeed producer, wha would you do to get Facebook to send you more traffic?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m hopeful that most of us don’t spend a lot of time each day thinking about death. For most of us this is not a pleasant subject and so we try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible. That is unless you happen to be a product manager who is involved in the business of death. We need to realize that when someone passes on, that is just the start of a lengthy process that deals with how their remains should be handled until they reach their final resting spot. It turns out that the business of death is currently undergoing a great deal of change.