Facebook’s News Feed changes have publishers on edge

When Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled changes to its popular News Feed feature on Thursday night, investors reacted by beating down its stock on Friday. They fear the move will mean people spend less time on the social network. But the group that may have the most to lose are news outlets and other publishers whose sites depend on Facebook for the traffic that helps determine advertising rates.

Zuckerberg has decided to give more weight to user-generated content over articles distributed by news sites, brand advertisers, and video producers in order to create what he described as a more “meaningful” experience. To accomplish this objective, Facebook will predict which posts might interest users and their friends, and rank them accordingly in a person’s News Feed.

“These are posts that inspire back-and-forth discussion in the comments and posts that you might want to share and react to — whether that’s a post from a friend seeking advice, a friend asking for recommendations for a trip, or a news article or video prompting lots of discussions,” wrote Adam Mosseri, the head of Facebook’s News Feed, in a blog post.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg & Co. weren’t more specific, leaving content generators feeling rather uneasy.

“The changes were unilateral and done without consultation with news publishers,” said News Media Alliance Chief Executive David Chavern. “We are wrestling with a world where Facebook has secret rules that they apply. They continue to make it hard to deliver journalism to readers. It is certainly not positive … because there’s going to be less news delivered to users of Facebook than before.”

Spokespeople for The New York Times (NYT) and The Washington Post declined to comment for this story as did BuzzFeed, whose IPO plans are reportedly in jeopardy over its failure to meet revenue targets. Officials from Vox Media and Atlantic Media also couldn’t immediately be reached.

CEO Heather Dietrick of The Daily Beast said the site “has…

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