Friday, March 8, 2013

Facebook Announces Dedicated Music Tab in News Feed Redesign

Alex Pham/Billboard

Facebook on Thursday unveiled a new design that gives music its own dedicated newsfeed tab, one that appears to give bands and music marketers more real estate on the social network to broadcast their messages to fans.

In making the changes to its newsfeed algorithm, Facebook took a page from a relatively ancient medium -- newspapers. For decades, daily papers have divided their articles by sections -- sports, business, local news, arts, entertainment and so on. Similarly, Facebook’s new feeds will feature categories that its users engage with most frequently, such as music, games, photos and “following,” which pulls together posts and updates from pages that the user has “Liked.”

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, during a news conference in California to announce the new look, called it “the best personalized newspaper” available.

The move reflects Facebook’s latest attempt to organize the flood of posts that course through its network, separating wheat from chaff and serving up updates that people are most likely to find valuable.

In a nod to the importance of music, Facebook carved out a feed just for bands, artists and music services. (The company last year released a dedicated feed for games, another critical category for Facebook.)

“Music is something that really resonates with all of us,” said Chris Struhar, Facebook’s technical lead for the redesign project. “So we’re really excited to get this feed out in front of people.”

The new design also gives videos and photos more real estate on the page. “Almost 59% of content on news feeds is photos and visual content,” said Zuckerberg, who also noted that Facebook’s 1 billion users are also engaging more with posts from publications, businesses, artists and world leaders -- not just the personal friends in their network. “How we’re all sharing is changing. This new design, we think, reflects this evolving face of newsfeeds.”

The overhaul reflects Facebook’s latest effort to balance its users’ need for interesting, personalized updates with the need for companies to connect with customers.

Last year, the Silicon Valley social network changed its newsfeed algorithm to push down posts from pages that had negative feedback from users, while elevating posts that experienced higher-than-average engagement, such as sharing or commenting. The goal, Facebook said, was to make its newsfeed more relevant and less “spammy” to its users. The changes, however, prompted outcry from businesses and brands that use Facebook and saw a decline in their reach -- highlighting Facebook’s difficulty in having to create an optimal experience for its users while also giving companies a valuable venue to do marketing.

This redesign, which creates a new tab for companies and brands under “Following” and for bands and musicians under “Music,” gives marketers a bigger canvas. At the same time, users can also personalize their feeds to include only the topics they care about. Feeds from personal friends can also be separated from other posts.

“People will get more choice and control over what they’re seeing,” Struhar said.

Not everyone using Facebook will see the changes right away. The company said it will be "slowly and carefully" rolling out the new design over the next few weeks and months -- first on browsers and later on mobile devices. Intrepid early adopters can sign up with Facebook to be among the first.

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