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Facebook Announces News Feed Algorithm Update to Put More Emphasis on Original, Quality News Content

Facebook Announces News Feed Algorithm Update to Put More Emphasis on Original, Quality News Content

Facebook has announced a new News Feed algorithm update for news content, which will put more emphasis on original reporting, and boost content from news websites that provide information on their journalists, increasing transparency.

The change comes as more people are turning to Facebook for news content – according to Pew Research, around 68% of Americans now get at least some news content from social platforms, with Facebook the leading source. And with many local news outlets being forced to close due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reliance on Facebook for news, especially local updates, is only going to rise.

That makes this News Feed change particularly timely. 

As per Facebook:

 

“When we ask people what kind of news they want to see on Facebook, they continually tell us they want news stories that are credible and informative. Today, we’re updating the way news stories are ranked in News Feed to prioritize original reporting and stories with transparent authorship.”

So what does that mean in practice?

As noted, the update focuses on two elements: ‘original reporting’ and ‘transparent authorship’.

On original reporting, Facebook says that it will now seek to identify and boost outlets that are the first to break a developing story or topic.

“We do this by looking at groups of articles on a particular story topic and identifying the ones most often cited as the original source. We’ll start by identifying original reporting in English language news and will do the same for news in other languages in the future.”

So, for example, last week, we covered the latest updates on Facebook’s dark mode roll out on mobile, for which I spoke to the team at Facebook and confirmed the relevant information. Because we were the first outlet to cover this in detail, theoretically, our story would get more reach, as it’s been cited by various sources as ‘first reported by’. But many other platforms have no doubt covered the same update since, without citing us. Using a range of these types of signals, Facebook will try to determine the original source, and amplify that reportage, where possible.

Though it could be a difficult one to actively enact. As Facebook notes: 

“Most of the news stories people see in News Feed are from sources they or their friends follow, and that won’t change.” 

News Feed distribution comes down to what individuals share – so Facebook can’t intervene and make people share the original report. People might prefer the analysis of another outlet, despite them not being the first to break the news – so how does Facebook get around that?

“When multiple stories are shared by publishers and are available in a person’s News Feed, we will boost the more original one which will help it get more distribution.”

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