Ever mindful of its image with regard to the dispensing of news, Facebook is now experimenting with a new format for delivering news feeds to users that would allow them to side scroll through any of the posted material in their news feed. This is very similar to how you can side scroll through Stories in the current Facebook layout. Once you tap into the initial posting, you’ll be able to side scroll through all the rest of the news content in your feed, which in essence converts your news feed into the same format as Stories. This is not an accident, since it was Facebook’s intention to merge the news feed and the Stories content into a single unified stream, so that you can move through both types of content in a single process.
Early stages of development
While conceding that the platform is indeed experimenting with this advanced news feed layout, Facebook cautions users that development so far is still in its early stages, and it still intends to consult with users a great deal more, prior to experimenting publicly. What that means is that you shouldn’t expect to see the new news feed layout in the foreseeable future, although it does present some tantalizing possibilities.
It’s also worth noting that Stories has not really captured user imagination in Facebook in the way that it has on other platforms. Even though it has integrated Messenger with Stories and that option is now being used by 300 million people daily, that still only amounts to about 10% of Facebook’s total user community. By contrast, Stories on Instagram is being used by roughly 40% of its users daily, and 25% of Snapchat users also make daily use of Stories.
This is undoubtedly a reflection of Facebook’s older audience and is an indication that they are somewhat more reluctant to try new options and features than are audiences for some of the other social media platforms. Still, Facebook has tremendous faith in the eventual attracting power of Stories, and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, still declares that Stories will eventually overtake Facebook’s News Feed as the most common way for users to consume news.
What about News Feed?
This raises the obvious question of what Facebook has in mind for its News Feed feature. If it sees Facebook Stories as the true future of news consumption, where does that leave its News Feed? While reports have circulated that usage of News Feed is declining overall, and other reports suggest that Facebook Stories is the fastest-growing news feature on the platform, that would seem to indicate that the days for News Feed may be numbered. If Facebook users are indeed losing interest in their main News Feed and turning to other options, it’s entirely possible that News Feed could be in the process of being phased out sometime in the near future.
What it means for users
For those users who don’t typically spend much time in their main News Feed, and spend far more time in Facebook Stories, they will almost certainly love the new layout. Since this amount to converting News Feed into Story Feed, it will present a much more appealing way of offering news to consumers, and is much likelier to engage users more deeply.
This is one of the main thrusts behind the whole conversion in the first place, i.e. to more fully engage users, and to keep them on the platform for as long as possible. For those people who prefer to simply check out the headlines in their News Feed, they would probably be disappointed by the new layout, since it will require them to spend a bit more time in order to assimilate the news they’re looking for. These people might even be tempted to find an alternative source for their news consumption, if they prefer a facts-only news service.
If this new News Feed layout is to be successful when it is actually implemented, it will more than likely call for some kind of a re-education process for Facebook users, so that their current habits can be changed and realigned with the new news feature. If Facebook users really are spending additional time in Stories, then the platform can take advantage of that by increasing engagement and blending it in with their next social patterns shift.
If they don’t take a proactive approach to this kind of change of habits, they would simply have to wait for the interest in News Feed to gradually decline and go through a much slower death on its own. This is considered an unlikely approach, since it would mean dragging a great deal of ad spend down with it. On the other hand, if a News Feed feature were integrated with Stories, that could promote a whole new wave of potential advertising opportunities, and these would be much more appealing in the immersive Stories format, with full screen display.
When compared with the main feed, this would be far more appealing, so that Stories would quickly take over and spur a much faster transition of user behavior. This kind of approach does make a lot of sense for Facebook, but it’s pretty easy to see that it also involves a major change for the platform. Anytime something involving major change is implemented on one of the social media platforms, there’s a possibility of upsetting or displeasing the existing user base.
If users resisted the change, that could be at least harmful to Facebook if not catastrophic. On the other hand, if users embrace the change, Facebook could be seen as a forward-thinking, progressive platform which is very much in touch with the desires and preferences of its base users. In fact, these are almost certainly questions which are being debated internally by Facebook even while testing and development is ongoing. What is eventually decided by the powers that be, could be very important to the long-term future of the social media giant, and could either enhance its reputation with users, or begin a gradual disenchantment.