Last updated: March 7, 2013 7:39 pm

Facebook unveils redesigned newsfeed

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Facebook on Thursday revealed a redesign of its most popular user feature that emphasises visual content and gives users more choices over what they see on their homepage.

The changes will appeal to advertisers who have been looking for more ways to capture the emotional impact of visual advertising on the social network, particularly on mobile devices, and hope it will yield more information about user interests that can be used to improve ad targeting.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive, compared the redesign to a “personalised newspaper”, where the “front page” has the most important information about a users’ friends surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm. Users can also click on separate chronological feeds filtered by different subjects “like flipping to the sports page”, he said.

Both users and advertisers have complained about Facebook’s algorithm, saying their messages now reach just a fraction of followers. Facebook has said only 16 per cent of messages posted by a business or public figure are seen by their fans.

Marketers have complained that the algorithm forces them to spend more on paid advertising that promises to reach more people. Facebook has denied this.

Users have also complained that they missed messages from their friends that they wanted to see as a result of the algorithm.

Under the redesign, the algorithm will continue to function as before. But now users have access to separate feeds where they can look at chronological listings of posts from their friends as well as businesses and celebrities they follow, and photos and music discussed on Facebook.

Chris Struhar, the technology lead on newsfeed, said that ads will appear in all parts of the new feed, both the original “front page” as well as the separate sections, although Facebook has not yet decided if advertisers will be able to choose where their ads appear.

More immediately, marketers will be most interested in the larger, richer photos featured on both the desktop and mobile versions of the new newsfeed. Mr Zuckerberg said that photos now constitute 50 per cent of newsfeed content.

During the next three to five years, companies plan to decrease investment in all forms of written content in favour of investments in mobile, visual and audio visual content, according to research by Rebecca Lieb at the Altimeter Group.

“One of the reasons pictures and video are becoming so big is because text is not so digestible, nor as immediately arresting, on small screen devices,” she said. “The easiest way to make content more snackable is to make it more visual.”

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