Facebook unveiled the hotly-anticipated changes to its news feed last night, focusing on reducing “clutter” and positioning itself as a “personalised newspaper”.
The redesign will focus on three aspects: rich stories, to make the content visual and engaging; a choice of feeds so users can ‘dig in’ to different topics; and a mobile inspired user interface.
It will roll out the redesign across web and mobile in the coming weeks. People can sign up to join the waiting list to receive the update early via Facebook.com/newsfeed.
The Drum has rounded up some of the immediate feedback from agencies regarding the changes:
Jordan Stone, strategy director, We Are Social:
This is the most significant change to newsfeed since the launch of Facebook Timelines – and one of the biggest changes Facebook has made to the platform itself in the last year.
Consumers are comfortable with what they know - especially when it comes to the social platforms they’re used to dealing with day in, day out - so I’m sure these developments will be met with the initial skepticism that we see every time a change is made.
However, Facebook is actually trying to be more relevant for consumers – a “personalised newspaper”, as Zuckerberg described it.
It has been designed to encourage people to spend more time on the platform. It does look more aesthetically pleasing and user friendly - everything is bigger and there is greater consistency between mobile and desktop experiences. And it also offers much more control of what you see, letting users zero in on friends, photos, and music.
Visual content is extremely important for brands on Facebook, and these changes emphasise this even further. Images will now be much more prominent, challenging marketers to stretch their creativity.
That said, increased visibility means that brands need to be more relevant than ever. They still need to work hard to make the experience more immersive and engaging. A stream of irrelevant content or ill-conceived sponsored posts will be noticed quickly by consumers.
Simon Mansell, CEO, TBG
Photos being much prominent means it even more important for brands to be serious about the production of quality imagery to deliver their message. It’s like a return to print advertising as a discipline.
The friends-only feed could get a lot of the volume which may be a concern, but it does stop people getting upset with Sponsored content appearing around their friends content. Stand-out will be harder for brands as a result but it's probably a better user experience.
I guess Facebook is betting that this will improve overall usage and that will be better for revenue in the long run. The chronological view is interesting as it removes the argument that there is an algo in between users and content.
Andreas Pouros, chief operating officer, Greenlight
Facebook banks on replicating mobile ad success with its news feed redesign, however, conflict between user experience and driving more ad dollars looms large.
The redesign is a welcome development as Facebook was beginning to look a little dated. The screenshots show some big aesthetic changes. Instead of a single feed when a user logs in, the change will see multiple feeds dividing content by several categories including music and photos. All in all, this will likely encourage users to stay on the site longer.
The redesign has also allocated more space to games, music and advertising. Facebook has claimed nothing has changed when it comes to ads, but has conceded they will take up more space as a result of the redesign.
The redesign mirrors Facebook’s successful format of advertising in newsfeeds on mobile. In January, Facebook revealed its mobile ad sales had more than doubled on the previous quarter to total $306m, to account for 23 per cent of the Social network’s overall ad revenues. The challenge Facebook faced then was in how it could increase monetisable engagement between users and advertisers whilst maintaining quality in terms of both targeting and also user experience.
Facebook has taken the success of advertising in peoples' newsfeeds on mobile and based its news feed redesign on mirroring that format (or close to it) on all devices - this should boost revenue.
In the last earnings call Zuckerberg stated Facebook had not seen any evidence that the increased advertising it introduced at that stage had had a negative impact on people. The challenge now is to 'reinvent' advertising so people don't feel they are being bombarded by ads. Facebook is now championing 'high quality advertising' in an attempt to do that.
Ameet Chandarana, managing director, Maynard Malone:
Following the IPO Facebook is under increasing pressure to monetise and that must be a big part of the shift announced today. However, pushing the traditional advertising model of buying space and placing static content in it just doesn’t work anymore in our social media driven world. Facebook needs to continue to evolve to allow brands to find new ways to engage with communities without aggressively overselling. Content led communities, such as WeLoveBaking which we created with Tate & Lyle Sugars, are great examples of providing consumers with a place to discuss topics close to their hearts, and these softer approaches are what is needed to truly bond people with brands.
Jason Minyo, creative director, Blast Radius New York:
Dramatically different? Compared to the current clumsy and inconsistent news feed, yes. Innovative? No. But it will cement Facebook as an almost indispensable daily news, entertainment and social source. The machine has just gotten a whole lot stronger, even if it does still lack strong type skills.
Peter Dolukhanov, managing director, Nice Agency:
The new Facebook Timeline experience is an interesting evolution, but is this truly innovative? It is clear it is trying to push more towards an immersive lifestyle viewer, taking inspiration from the likes of Thirst Now, the LinkedIn for iPad News Feed and of course Flipboard.
The new design does move Facebook more towards a full screen view, which will work nicely from a responsive design perspective, but it does feel like is lacking something.
If its objective is a more immersive experience, it has fallen short of the mark. However, this could be a step towards something greater if it is adopting a slower approach in order not to scare off less savvy users. But it does feel like it needs to push the boundaries harder.