Facebook Remakes The Newsfeed, Ad Impact Is Vague

zuck-newsfeedSpring has nearly sprung, and it seems Facebook is ready to get the clutter out.

The company today rolled out organized, parallel newsfeeds geared to various user information needs. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and several members of his team showed off the new, more visually dynamic newsfeeds at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters this morning.

The quick take for advertisers: Paid placements are likely to be larger and more engaging, but the full impact is still unclear.

Currently, Facebook users are slaves to a singular, often crowded feed that offers little organization other than by chronology and most active stories. “The history of Newsfeed is to have a single stream of content,” Zuckerberg pointed out. “But we have been trying to build the most personalized newspaper we can.

The result is a variety of newsfeeds that were guided and inspired by special constraints the company faced in developing mobile versions of its user interface. Those newsfeeds are:  All Friends, Photos, Music, and Following. This means users can allot time to things that interests them most.

The new design is also more photo-centric. In the past you may have seen a small update that a friend read an article or went hiking in a national park. The new design takes a cue from visually demanding users by providing images that can be pulled from fan pages or other sources.

Julie Zhou, the director of design at Facebook thinks that, since more than 50% of content in a typical newsfeed is visual, the interface should cater to that. “When they say pictures are worth a thousand words, our current design was really only worth 500,” Zhou joked. “But we are here to evolve as the users change their habits.”

For advertisers on the platform, the changes are likely to bring challenges as well as opportunities. Facebook says its content and ad algorithms will remain unchanged, so any differences initially are likely to spring from the change in appearance — larger ad images, for one — not in standing or where ads are placed.

Several ad vendors weighed in with comments. Strategic PMD Adobe said the newsfeed redesign promises “new opportunities” for marketers.

“As users tend to show a stronger interest in active, personalized news feeds, embedded ads will likely be more relevant and generate higher ROI for advertisers,” said Justin Merickel, Senior Director, Media & Ad Solutions.

Users will see company logos and insignias in the corner of article or video posts promoted by brands, and can hover over and “like” a page without navigating away. That’s a big win for brand pages – no more users forgetting to follow a page because they were in the middle of reading their newsfeed.

And if it wasn’t clear before, brands and marketers must be extremely visual in their ads and posts – and must encourage likes and follows so that when users travel between different feeds, these names and ads are there.

In an earnings call in January, Zuckerberg foreshadowed changed that would come to the Facebook Newsfeed experience, including “more engaging ads” and a more “immersive” experience.

Zuckerberg pointed out that more than 30% of content users’ view is now Pages they follow. These Pages will need to pull the reader in as Facebook evolves to become more Pinterest-like.

But companies that have not been as strong in the mobile side of social media should be excited to know that Facebook is pushing for continuity across platforms. This means that posts, ads and other content will be seen everywhere in the same fashion.

“We knew that we didn’t want to put more content on the front page,” Zuckerberg added. “But those that have more time and want to drill down into specific content and topics are now going to have that opportunity.”

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