Zuckerberg unveiled a new look for the social network's News Feed. —Photo by Reuters
Zuckerberg unveiled a new look for the social network's News Feed. —Photo by Reuters

MENLO PARK: Facebook began Thursday transforming the stream of updates from friends at homepages into a “personalized newspaper”, with news ranging from the personal to the global.

The News Feed on homepages at the leading social network was revamped to get rid of clutter and present “bright, beautiful” stories, such as insights from friends or trending news of the day.

“I think there is a special place in the world for this sort of personalized newspaper,” Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said when introducing the overhauled News Feed. “It should have a front page and top news section or let you drill down into any topic you want.”

Facebook is rolling out the new News Feed “very slowly” at its website reached by desktop or laptop, and will begin adding it to smartphone and tablet applications in the coming weeks.

Each News Feed will automatically be tuned to the interests of individual Facebook users, according to technical lead Chris Struhar.

Pictures in the feed will be gleaned from friends' posts or online pages people have indicated they “like”.

If a Facebook user follows pages from CNN or other professional media organizations, top shared or trending stories are displayed.

Music or film lovers should see News Feeds touting fresh developments regarding bands, stars, movies, songs or other related subjects.

Struhar told AFP that “we hope you get all you need” without having to leave Facebook to seek stories at websites such as Google News or Yahoo! News.

Zuckerberg gestures to members of the News Feed design team. —Photo by Reuters
Zuckerberg gestures to members of the News Feed design team. —Photo by Reuters

“We've spent a lot of time talking to the people who use News Feed every day,” Struhar said. “They want more choice and more control over stories they are seeing on their homepages.”

While the amount of content shared at Facebook has soared, the time people spend at the social network remains limited, inspiring the drive to more efficiently connect people with news they most care about, according to Facebook.

“It is designed for the way we are sharing today and the trends we see going forward,” Zuckerberg said. “I don't foresee Facebook offering its own content.”

There were no plans to change the number of ads displayed at the website as part of the overhaul.

“Back when we started News Feed, it was primarily made up of text,” Zuckerberg said. “Now that we all have cameras in our pockets, in our phones, the majority of this content is photos.”

Since late 2011, the percentage of News Feed posts devoted to sharing Web pages has risen to between 25 to 30 per cent, according to Facebook.

News Feed will give more prominence to major stories being shared by friends in the social network, trends at third-party applications such as Pinterest or Instagram, as well as weave in important personal bits, such as a cousin with a new job.

Zuckerberg addresses the audience. —Photo by Reuters
Zuckerberg addresses the audience. —Photo by Reuters

“When I wake up in the morning and see all my friends are sharing the exact same news story or video, I know it must be something big,” said Facebook director of design Julie Zhuo.

“You get a richer, simpler, more beautiful News Feed focused on the things you care about, what your friends are saying, and what is trending.”

Forrester social analyst Nate Elliott was unimpressed with the overhaul, saying it returned control users once had at the social network while alienating companies that have invested in building followings at Facebook pages.

“Marketers have spent billions of dollars in the past two years buying friends and 'likes' on Facebook and Facebook has encouraged them to do that,” Elliott said.

“Slowly but surely, Facebook keeps making those fans, those 'likes,' less usable for those brands.”

Revamped News Feed will make it easier for Facebook users to avoid posts from brand pages people have “liked” but will still serve up paid ads, according to Elliott.

“If I'm a brand, I'm disappointed today,” the analyst said.

As a result of placing ads in its mobile News Feed, Facebook earned more US mobile display revenue than any other ad publisher last year, according to industry tracker eMarketer.

The Menlo Park, California-based company took 18.4 per cent of US mobile display advertising market in 2012, eMarketer estimated.

The US mobile advertising market more than doubled to $4 billion last year and was projected by eMarketer to climb to $7.19 billion this year.


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