You know who doesn’t want you depending on Facebook to get your news?
Facebook, for one.
The social media giant announced Wednesday that its latest algorithm recalibration will downplay posts from established news outlets in favor of what users’ family and friends put online.
That’s not good for however many of the site’s 1.6 billion users have come to rely on it as something of a headline service. But it’s even worse for the news organizations that Facebook has encouraged to lean on it for broadening digital exposure.
“Overall, we anticipate that this update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some Pages,” Lars Backstrom, Facebook’s engineering director, said in a note on the site.
Neither the impact nor the impetus is entirely clear.
Facebook might be trying to jump-start content sharing among users, which was reported down. This also might be an attempt to squeeze money from media companies to promote content.
Another possibility: News sometimes can be a turnoff, and Facebook didn’t get to be what it is by tolerating anything that undermines its business interests.
The emphasis with the new algorithm “is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management overseeing its news feed, said in a post on the site.
So, Mosseri wrote, “if you tend to like photos from your sister, we'll start putting her posts closer to the top of your feed so you won’t miss what she posted.”
The next priority after that is whatever news you seem to fancy, followed by entertainment.
Now, if your Facebook friends are all devoted to posting links to news reports, what you see may not change so much.
But be prepared for your old classmate’s latest selfies or a co-worker’s take on this week’s episode of “The Bachelor” to take precedence.
And what news there is may tilt toward the type that draws comments.
As it has all along, Facebook plans to pay close attention to what you seem to care about. It will hone each user’s feed to established patterns with an eye to greater engagement and interaction.
“If the ranking is off, people don’t engage and leave dissatisfied,” Mosseri said. “So one of our most important jobs is getting this ranking right.”
But if its ranking is based only on what it already provides, it risks skewed results and users may miss things that truly interest them, all because their friends and family aren’t as interesting or interested as they are.
Facebook never has wanted to formally present itself as a news site, despite partnerships it has gladly forged with news organizations that have sought to share its enviable web traffic and ad revenue.
The site’s prominence as a news platform, however, factored in the recent dust-up over the relative weight reportedly given to conservative perspectives, which led to promises of efforts to ensure better balance.
“We are not in the business of picking which issues the world should read about,” Mosseri wrote. “We are in the business of connecting people and ideas, and matching people with the stories they find most meaningful.”
But Facebook is no passive platform. It is always culling user information, positioning itself to sell something to someone. It wants its users networking with each other more, not so much for their benefit but for its own.
If that’s news to you, Facebook perhaps would prefer you not dwell on it.
Phil Rosenthal is a business columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.