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The fight for the Facebook News Feed – and its memes – is on

Facebook recently announced that it plans to change how its News Feed prioritizes news and updates. Basically, “high quality” news stories and new comments on old status updates will get a boost, whereas meme-centric posts (i.e., a Grumpy Cat Imgur-made image) will not.

There, of course, lies a lot of interpretation between “high quality news” and “meme” or “meme-like,” so it’s hard to say how exactly this will look when it hits our feeds. But this is going to be a huge change: According to AllThingsD, after talking to Facebook’s News Feed Manager Lars Backstrom, this is going to be to Facebook what Panda was to Google.

Panda was the code name of an iteration of Google’s search algorithm that had huge, lasting effects on the Web. It was an attempt to punish content farms – sites the scraped stories and just rewrote their own versions of it, or even just straight-up copied them. While Google’s intentions here were good, the effects weren’t necessarily so, and some sites that produced much of their own content were punished. But it’s a matter of opinion, whether you think Panda improved or worsened the Web.

As it will be with this new Facebook News Feed. If you like informative, researched, news-oriented long form, then you’re in luck. If you liked those superfluous Grumpy Cat pictures, you aren’t. Backstrom says point blank: “If you see a funny meme photo in your feed – sure, you get some value from that. But if you compare that to reading 1,000 words on AllThingsD, you would presumably get more value from that experience than the first one.”

Regardless of whether you agree, that sounds an awful lot like Facebook knows what’s best for us and we’re going to get a dose of that – like it or not.

You might find yourself asking “what if I like meme photos more?” or “what if I get the same amount of enjoyment out of both of these types of content?,” and those are legitimate questions to ask. But the answer, unfortunately, is that Facebook surveyed us, and survey says … meme photos are getting buried.

A few sources of this type of content come to mind – Buzzfeed, 9GAG, Viralnova, and Upworthy. Apparently, Facebook won’t necessarily target sources, but what they’re publishing. So while a single photo meme from Buzzfeed won’t get boosted, a long form piece of original reporting will.

Still, the iron hand Facebook’s laying down here means that publishers and users want to at least make their voices heard in the matter – so Upworthy’s own Eli Parisier and a few other interested parties are making an open list of things Facebook should be taking into considering. Some of the ideas that the social network’s machines could read? According to the growing list, Facebook content should be boosted by:

  • Shares by email 
  • Author authority (Google has it’s own author ranking widget) 
  • PageRank
  • Time on page 
  • Comment tone (positive comments, words that suggest quality – i.e. “Must read,” “Great read,” etc.)
  • Bounce rate

The list goes on and on, and has many notable contributors. Anything you’d like to see? Maybe add it to list. Who knows? Facebook should could be listening.

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