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About-face: Zuckerberg says, “Oops, sorry, we’ll just turn down the commercial spigot a tad"

mark zuck

via Flickr © pestoverde (CC BY 2.0)

  • Zuckerberg is going to offer fewer ads, more chat from friends
  • We've heard this sort of thing before - adjusting feeds, elbowing out vile content, etc
  • Any chance things will change that much?

“Facebook was built to bring people closer together and build relationships. One of the ways we do this is by connecting people to meaningful posts from their friends and family in News Feed. Over the next few months, we’ll be making updates to ranking so people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about.

“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”

This is Mark Zuckerberg’s version of a mea culpa. An admission that Facebook has been getting it wrong.

But is it too little too late?

In publishing we used to call what Zuckerberg describes above as the ad/ed(itorial) ratio. That’s the percentage of ads selling things, against the proportion of content designed to get people engaged in the publication in the hope that they might digest some of the ads.

Because the marginal cost (to Facebook) of adding another ad to your feed is probably just a scintilla above zero, Zuckerberg was able to literally flood the ad market and still make money for Facebook. Trouble was and is, the users have started to notice. Instead of a warm fuzzy community feeling, Facebook more and more resembles a sort of twisted bazaar with a high proportion of kittens and puppies on the one hand, and increasingly vehement political trolls spewing nonsense even they don’t believe, on the other. It threatens to be a place not many of us actually enjoy spending a lot of time at anymore - hence today’s announcement from Zuck.  

We’ve seen these bouncy ‘we’re determined to do better’ moments from Zuckerberg before. Any chance that this time there’ll be a big and noticeable change in direction? Any chance that, after there isn’t a big change in direction and the initial fuss dies down, that me, you and thousands of other people will depart Facebook messaging that the last person to leave turn out the lights?

I guess that’s a ‘no’ from him and a ‘no’ from you and another from me. See you back on Facebook soon.

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