Facebook Gets a Facelift, Focusing on Imagery

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7 March 2013,
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One of the most visible and significant components of social media goliath Facebook will soon look very different. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has often referred to his social network’s News Feed, Timeline and Graph Search as the three pillars of Facebook. Timeline was a major shake-up back in late 2011, and Graph Search is still in beta status. News Feed was rumored to be next in terms of redesign, and the time has come.

Facebook has invited tech journalists and major Silicon Valley players to a media event on Thursday, March 7th. The invite did not elaborate much, but it clearly mentioned a new look for what is considered to be the heart and soul of Facebook: News Feed. Nothing has been officially confirmed by the social network, but insiders are already speculating on what millions of Facebook members will see when they access their profiles in the weeks to come.

Photos, Videos, Music and Visual Flash

The current functionality of News Feed is pretty straight-forward. Members get to see social updates from their circle of friends, and they can sort these news flashes by their level of engagement or the time they were created. In the past, Facebook members have voiced their displeasure at this limited functionality and general lack of customization in what is supposed to be the most important aspect of the social media experience.

The News Feed overhaul will ostensibly utilize a content-based approach to sorting social media updates. Facebook members will be able to categorize media-rich updates to include Instagram photos, videos, songs they have listened to on the network, and Web content they are interested in sharing. By making News Feed more attractive, Facebook intends to capture even greater market share in terms of Internet use by members.

Under the current Internet content paradigm, Facebook members are increasingly spending more time watching videos, commenting on photos, and reacting to music streamed within the social network. Text-heavy discussions and articles are mostly conducted outside of Facebook. The News Feed updated promises to bring some greatly-needed visual flash to Facebook’s classic blue-and-white user interface.

A Major Advertising Opportunity

When Facebook introduced News Feed in 2006, it quickly invited an unexpected reaction from members concerned about the sudden broadcast of personal information. The social network implemented some privacy controls to assuage concerned members, but it became clear that Facebook intended to give advertisers prime placement on News Feed.

As Facebook’s nerve center, News Feed has great revenue potential for the social network. Content-specific updates present a great opportunity for marketers to learn more about the interests of Facebook members so that they can adjust their advertising strategies accordingly. In his final earnings call for 2012, CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook was keenly aware of the paradigm shift towards rich media items such as videos and photographs; to this end, it seems that he is taking the direction he previously promised.

Another speculation surrounding the News Feed redevelopment is that Facebook will increase the amount of screen real estate for the purpose of allowing more ads. Social media observers are also betting that Facebook will do everything possible to keep members glued to News Feed in the future, including streaming music, video and Web content.

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