What Facebook’s ‘Timely’ Algorithm Change Means for Publishers


Facebook has announced another change to the News Feed algorithm. In a post on the company’s newsroom, Engineering Manager David Vickrey and Software Engineer Erich Owens say that the feed will now place timely content higher up in the News Feed to promote “stories about things that are trending as soon as they occur.” A second update, they say, “takes into account the rate at which people are liking or commenting on a post” when deciding how high to place a story in the news feed.

Facebook’s rapid iteration has garnered plenty of attention by online publishers as of late. From the suppression of “like-baiting” to “click-baiting,” the social networking giant has made it clear that it intends to improve the relevance of users’ News Feeds. This newfound emphasis on timely content, while not surprising, may affect the strategies publishers use to deliver ever increasing levels of engagement and referrals.

Specifically, the post states that “when a friend or Page you are connected to posts about something that is currently a hot topic of conversation on Facebook, that post is more likely to appear higher up in the News Feed,” and that this change resulted in an average 6 percent increase in engagement in the company’s tests. Facebook offers a post about a movie premiere as an example of a timely post — a tacit nod toward the media — but publishers who rely on organic traffic from evergreen content may not find this change to their benefit.

The second update to the News Feed algorithm involves a new dimension for measuring content: acceleration. Before, posts were judged by engagement and topical relevancy, but now Facebook is “going to begin looking at when people are choosing to like, comment and share.” Acceleration is a core part of how SimpleReach has always worked: our predictive score uses it as the foundation for how we estimate how much growth an article will receive. Facebook will use this new metric to determine how high to place posts in the News Feed.

The post also states that people should “not expect posts to see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update” and that pages should keep sharing great content. If accurate, we expect that publishers will look forward to that reported 6 percent increase in engagement, but we’ll reserve judgement until we can measure the changes in our predictive algorithm.

Photo by Marco Paköeningrat

About Evan Rodgers

Evan Rodgers is a Content Analyst at SimpleReach. His background in journalism and economics gives him a bookish vibe, but make no mistake, his Twitter account (@evanrodgers) tells the real story.

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