Facebook’s news feed will prioritise posts from friends above that of publishers in a move that could see “a small but noticeable drop in reach” for shared news content.
The social network announced on Wednesday that changes to its algorithms would now give greater prominence to content shared by users’ friends over posts from publishers.
Facebook has said the change came about after hearing concerns from members who were worried about missing “important updates” from those they cared about.
For the first time, the site has made its news feed criteria open to the public. Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said in a blog post: “Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook.”
He told the BBC: “It is possible that some publishers may see a small but noticeable drop in reach, but I don’t think this will be a very big change.”
However, if the majority of a page’s reach comes from people sharing their content and receiving likes and comments, traffic is less likely to be affected by the changes, Facebook has said.
Over recent years news brands have come to rely on social media for extending the reach of their content online and for generating more traffic to their websites.
However, according to the New York Times, the dependent relationship that news publishers have with Facebook means that they have little say in the changes that it decides to make.
The newspaper highlighted a recent study by data analytics website Parse.ly that showed 41 per cent of traffic referral for news sites in 2015 came from Facebook, surpassing traffic referral from Google (just under 40 per cent).
The Times said: “At a time when the relationship between publishers and Facebook is already tense, any change that de-emphasizes news content is likely to deepen concern.
“And Facebook’s move will be just another reminder that publishers do not have direct access to their online audiences on social platforms.”
Facebook already modifies individuals’ news feeds based on the type of content commonly engaged with. The new changes are expected over the coming weeks.