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Remember Facebook Questions? Checkins? Spotify listens? They had their time at the top of the news feed because Facebook favors new products, but their prominence diminished as they matured. This and competition for space between posts may explain why New York Times writer Nick Bilton gets fewer Likes on shares to his public followers than a year ago. The news feed is a bumpy ride.
According to Zuckerberg’s Law Of Sharing, we post twice as much each year, but we’re not doubling how long we spend reading our social streams. On Twitter’s unfiltered feed, that means we read tweets from a shorter period each time we browse. The last 100 tweets may now come from the last hour, when perhaps it took those we follow two hours to conjure up as many quips and cat memes a year ago.
On Facebook’s filtered feed, though, push comes to shove, as Hunter Walk mentions in his response to Bilton. Facebook shows a digest of the most “relevant” posts from the last few hours or since we last logged in. As we share more, the bar climbs, and only the posts with the most likes and comments and those from our closest friends show up.
Facebook also sidesteps its news feed sorting algorithm, unofficially known as EdgeRank, to inject certain pieces of content. For example, ads. Whether they’re posts by Pages we Like that could have appeared but probably wouldn’t make the cut, or non-social ads that are completely artificial, Facebook makes money by sticking them high in the news feed. The volume of advertising in the feed has increased dramatically this year, which Bilton says means “free posts will disappear from people’s feeds as sponsored ads float to the top.”
It’s a balancing act, and Facebook may be tipping too far towards advertisers’ interests right now. I agree with Bilton. Facebook risks alienating users if the feed’s meritocracy is poisoned with paid marketing and users feel like they’re not seeing what they want.