Facebook Inc. said it’s making major changes to its flagship social network, shifting users’ news feeds back toward posts from friends and family and away from businesses and media outlets -- a transition that is likely to mean people spend less time on the site.
In a post Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said feedback from the community has shown that public content has been “crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.” He said the goal of the product teams will be to help Facebook’s more than 2 billion monthly users find content that will lead to more meaningful social interactions.
"By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down," Zuckerberg wrote. "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."
Last week, Zuckerberg said his resolution for 2018 was to "fix" the social network he co-founded. That followed a year in which the company faced sharp criticism from many angles -- including the platform’s role in the proliferation of "fake news" and Kremlin-connected propaganda ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, questions about privacy, and about the impact on society of the hours many people spend on Facebook.
The company has kept revenue growing by consistently selling more advertising in its news feed, striking partnerships with media companies to distribute their stories, and including more video postings, which draw higher ad rates. Facebook’s changes don’t impact ads -- only business and media-oriented content posted by pages and other people, according to a person familiar with the matter. Still, downplaying such posts from brands and businesses may put revenue at risk, said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co.
“There will be less opportunity to expose Facebook users to brands," Cakmak said. "But those opportunities to get in front of users will be that much more impactful if it’s more selective.”
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