What You Can Expect from Facebook’s Latest News Feed Changes

Facebook is changing the way its news feed works, aiming to surface more posts from your friends and connections and showing fewer posts from businesses, publishers and organizations.

If ‘fewer posts from businesses, publishers and organizations’ raises a lump in your throat, here’s what to keep an eye out for in the as these changes roll out.

Publishers Need a Plan C

This is a big challenge for publishers, most of whom rely on Facebook as a primary traffic driver. As news feeds became more and more stuffed with posts from publishers, publishers have only been shifting more and more resources to the platform.

This will be a particularly big hit for Growth Directors and social media staff at publishers, who’ll have to explain and contend with a noticeable drop in metrics.

Expect to see more publishers encouraging their audience to join Facebook Groups as they test tactics that the new algorithm deems meaningful.

Brands Will Continue to Rely on Ads

In their announcement, Facebook is preparing businesses to see their effectiveness fall, but this will be a much shorter realignment than for publishers.

For a long time, businesses and brands have not been able to get meaningful reach on Facebook without putting paid media behind their posts. These new changes will make it even more difficult for businesses and brands to see organic traffic.

This shouldn’t make brands blink. Expect these organizations to continue to rely on ads to drive engagement. While there’s likely to be some realignment on a tactical level — and effectiveness might drop in the short term — don’t bet on Facebook nerfing how advertising works in any significant  way.

Good News for Users

Hopefully this will be a positive change for Facebook’s individual users, who will see more posts from people they know and care about. If Zuckerberg and the product team stick to the “time well spent” mantra, I’m excited to see what that means for content in the feed.

The End of Fake News?

Facebook’s presenting these changes as a way  “to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”

It’s tempting to project this as a front on the fight against false stories, hoaxes and the divisive tactics used by content farms and foreign governments. There’s not much in the details of these changes that looks like it will put a stake in the heart of the platform’s fake news problem, though.

There’ll continue to be an arms race between Facebook and the groups that want to use its distribution network to stoke fear and division. Expect the next round of these tactics to spread more through shares rather than comments and likes.

We’ll be watching closely to see how Facebook continues to tweak the news feed as results of these changes become apparent, and how bad actors try to take advantage of the new algorithm around the next high-stakes events.

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Phillip + LGND

So here’s some news: I’m joining up with LGND, and I’m pretty jazzed about it.

Almost a year ago, my fiancée and I decided to leave D.C. and move to New York. Her team was building up their Midtown office, and I was fortunate enough to continue working with my Business Roundtable colleagues in a remote consulting role. Getting out of  D.C.  also gave me some perspective to think about what kind of work I wanted to pursue, and where the most interesting work is being done.

I’ve spent a lot of my career orbiting media and policy, and honestly, I don’t intend to change. Good policy stories encourage people and institutions to make real, positive progress. The media has become the most dynamic and treacherous industry over the past twenty years. Together, new media tools and innovative policy ideas can push us forward.

It isn’t always that way right now. Digital media and promotion is cluttered with cynical tactics that can cause wild swings in what we perceive to be public opinion. These tactics don’t create long-term change. New ideas take root and flourish through personal and relatable storytelling.

That’s why I’m joining LGND.

Soon after I left D.C. Patrick and I began talking about projects LGND was working on back home. He and the other founders, including Google alum Matt Lockwood, Obama Administration alum Mike Aleo, and LivingSocial/1776’s Andrew Dolan, are bringing a product-mentality to policy.

Over the past few months I’ve watched them launch compelling campaigns on immigration, job growth and violence against girls. I’m excited to work with a team with a mission behind their passion.

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What Would You Say You Do Here?

I’m joining the strategy team at LGND. The crew is already staffed with experts in analytics, comms, project development and promotion, and I’m coming to bring experience with large-scale advocacy campaigns and web builds to the fold.

If you were a company or organization (say) and you came to LGND to launch a new initiative or rebranding, I would be the one outfitting our designers and engineers with the information, insights and inspiration to bring your policy issue to the right audiences

(If you’d like to see it in action, let’s talk.)

I’ve had the great privilege of working with some of LGND’s clients and partners already, and I’ve seen how their philosophy transforms audiences into advocates. There’s plenty of progress to be made. LGND is ready. Let’s make it happen.

Favorite Books of 2017

These are the books I liked best I read in 2017. They’re not all published in 2017, because who is so caught up on reading they can only read current books?

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World

Peter Wohlleben, 2016

I wouldn’t’ve guessed I’d get in to trees. Nature-wise, I’m more interested in bugs, birds, pollinators, active stuff that moves and has a social life. An algorithmic recommendation led me to a sample of this book and I gave it a shot.

Trees are so social, and Wohlleben writes like he’s one of them. The ways he describes how trees talk and how they live their lives made me feel for these things. Every page Wohlleben casually drops another amazing fact about trees.

This is the best book I read this year. It has me looking at the world differently.

A few highlights from my read through:

Assuming it grows to be 400 years old, [a beech tree] can fruit at least sixty times and produce a total of about 1.8 million beechnuts. From these, exactly one will develop into a full-grown tree—and in forest terms, that is a high rate of success, similar to winning the lottery.

The saliva of each species is different, and trees can match the saliva to the insect. Indeed, the match can be so precise that trees can release pheromones that summon specific beneficial predators.

Thanks to selective breeding, our cultivated plants have, for the most part, lost their ability to communicate above or below ground—you could say they are deaf and dumb—and therefore they are easy prey for insect pests.

The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas

Daniel Drezner, 2017

The Ideas Industry was released right as I was trying to figure out how thought-leadership and policy trends work, and how to separate the yahoos from serious introspection and investigation. Drezner’s history and explanation of the mechanics of the ideas marketplace was a stepping stone for me and it was a really interesting dive into the ideas landscape and how it’s being used and abused.

Highlights:

When authoritative institutions are no longer trusted, debates about first principles re-emerge.

Even if thought leaders lack traditional credentials, they can argue from personal experience. In any age when authenticity is a prized commodity, that gambit can work more effectively for thought leaders (who often derive their arguments inductively from experience) than for public intellectuals (who often work out their arguments using deductive analysis).

Political scientists make boring pundits, because their standard response to most headlines is “It’s not that important.”

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Cal Newport, 2016

I was skeptical about this book when I picked it up. I thought: Deep Work sounds like it’s for developers and creatives, I work directly with clients and need a manager’s schedule. But when I dove in I found a lot of applicability to how I frame my work days.

The first half is an overview of the research for why long work periods are needed, but I’ll skip that when I read this again. The second half has the methods for setting boundaries around your day — I’m looking forward to revisiting that. Thanks to Casey for the recommendation.

Highlights:

Put more thought into your leisure time. In other words, this strategy suggests that when it comes to your relaxation, don’t default to whatever catches your attention at the moment, but instead dedicate some advance thinking to the question of how you want to spend your “day within a day.”

One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change—not rest, except in sleep.

Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process

John McPhee, 2017

Firstly, thank you John McPhee for not having an absurd, long subtitle for your book like the rest of this list.

I’m a sucker for books about how writers write and the process of creation, and was excited to read about it from McPhee. This is not a book of guidelines and tips, however. McPhee’s articles create habitats where his articles lessons breathe and live out what he’s teaching about the writing process. No rules or shortcuts to writing with McPhee. only meticulous craft.

I don’t have any highlights to reference for this book because I read it hardcover and immediately gave it to my mom after.

— Phillip

UX Rules Beyond the Web

There’s a vibrant industry around user experience (UX) thought today, but as UX  moves beyond flat screens we’re finding that a lot of the best practices and known methods are too specific. What applies to call-to-action styling and page navigation on desktop web and mobile is often totally inapplicable when interacting with Alexa or Siri, or diving into virtual reality headgear.

Early UX and interface research dealt with the same problem. When Jakob Nielsen, now head of Nielsen Norman Group, was at Bellcore in 1994, he published a report called Enhancing the Explanatory Power of Usability Heuristics (pdf).

The report explores usability and user experience heuristics. Heuristics in this case are generalized methods to solve groups of problems — not specific solutions but ideas and processes you can fall back on as rules of thumb.

Importantly, Nielsen and team assessed heuristics for telephone interfaces and text-based environments as well as graphical user interfaces (GUIs). GUIs, back then things like Windows desktop environments, have a huge overlap with web design. The idea was that problems that arise between GUIs and text-based interfaces, like DOS, and telephone interfaces are more generalizable as overall user experience ‘rules’.

Nielsen started with a long list of usability fixes, and pared down which of these solutions are most useful. To figure out which heuristics are most important, Nielsen split out results into the heuristics which solve

  1. The greatest number of UX problems, and
  2. Those that are most effective at solving serious problems

I’ve been keeping these lists at hand and referencing them often as I look through projects we’re working on. They’re useful for getting a broader view of what we’re looking at, and help us solve larger numbers of problems with reproducible techniques.

— Phillip