The new Newsfeed with Facebook's Jeff Kanter

Key Points

Jeff Kanter Photo

  1. The goal of News Feed is to show people the most interesting and relevant content to them.
  2. As part of the News Feed redesign, Facebook made a lot of the stories bigger and brighter so that people could see the content that they really cared about.
  3. In addition to having a top news filter, Facebook introduced other customizable filters on the new homepage.
  4. Facebook has rolled out the updated News Feed to a small portion of their users to see what they like and don't like about the new features.
  5. They are looking at Likes, comments, and Shares to better understand how people are using the updated News Feed in comparison to the current version to see if there’s an improvement in terms of consumption, feedback and engagement.
  6. Page Post Ads have been working really well for direct response advertisers whose objective is to take people offsite somewhere to then take a specific action.
  7. A couple months ago, a change was made to the current News Feed (not in the new design) to make link shares almost three times larger, which benefited users as well as advertisers. The larger link-share design made its way into the new design as well.
  8. In the last year, mobile design has actually had a big impact on Desktop design. Most notably that Facebook now has bookmarks in the left-hand column.
  9. Facebook now has over 750 million people that are using Facebook on mobile, which is up about 54 percent from last year (as of March 2013).
  10. As of Q1,roughly 30 percent of Facebook's ad revenue has been coming from Mobile versus Desktop.

Eric Enge: Can you tell me what led Facebook to contemplate the new News Feed and what the goals and objectives of that effort were?

“It's like a daily newspaper that works for everyone in the world but that’s personalized on an individual level.”

Jeff Kanter: Absolutely, the goal of News Feed is to show people the most interesting and relevant things to them. So, as they connect to people and pages and other things in the world that they care about, we want to make sure that we're delivering the best and most compelling experience. It's like a daily newspaper that works for everyone in the world but that's personalized on an individual level.

The News Feed change that was announced in March is that we're starting to roll out a more visual layout for News Feed. Over the years we've been talking to lots of our users. We bring people to headquarters, talk to them about how they use News Feed, and we watch them use Facebook in different ways. We've gathered tons of useful feedback.

One of the things we heard loud and clear was that they really cared a lot about the content that was showing up in their News Feed. And so one of the things we tried to do in the redesign was really focus on the content of News Feed itself. We made a lot of the stories bigger and brighter so that people could see the content that they really cared about.

This means that a photo or a video story would become a little bit bigger. If your friends are listening to music on Spotify or Rdio, we'd render that in a larger format and make it more prominent. One of the other things was, in addition to having our top news filter, where people can see the most interesting and relevant things to them, we are introducing other filters on the new homepage. So for people that want to dive a little bit deeper and see all the different music stories from friends, they'd be able to do that in a really easy way.

If they want to see all photos from their different friends, they'd be able to jump into the photos filter that we now support. This is a lot of what drove the design changes — what users have been telling us about the content and how they want to consume the content on their homepage.

newsfeed-photos-filter

Eric Enge: Right. So from a theoretical point of view, a certain amount of Facebook branding and presence is fine. But for the most part, from the user perspective, all of that could fade into the background.

Jeff Kanter: Yes. They care the most about the stories in their feed.

Eric Enge: The filters are interesting in that the users are given more control to dynamically manage the content that is of higher value to them, especially with the constant amount of content put in front of them every day.

Jeff Kanter: Exactly. For example I'm really into music; I listen to music all day and I love going to concerts and shows. So now, I can spend some of my time on Facebook not only looking at top news, but I can hop into my music filter to see what my friends are listening to, learn about any upcoming concerts in my area, and so on.

Music Filter in Facebook's News Feed

Eric Enge: Can you provide any indication on how long this roll out will take?

Jeff Kanter: We're initially rolling it out slowly to understand how it’s received, and then we're offering a way for people to tell us they want the new design so that we can roll it out to that group of people sometime soon.

Eric Enge: Would it be fair to say that you’re doing a lot of testing and you feel like it has been fully optimized you can roll it out more quickly.

Jeff Kanter: Yes. We are rolling this product out to certain groups of users and observing how they use it. We want to know what they like and, just as importantly, don’t like, so that we can get it to a point where we feel strongly enough to roll it out to many more people. So yes, you are correct.

Eric Enge: Do you have any observations that you can share on how the usage has changed with the newer News Feed from the people you do have currently using it?

Jeff Kanter: We are excited to see how people are using it. One of the goals was for people to be more engaged with this new news feed, so we’re actively looking at how people are interacting with stories in this new layout.

Eric Enge: One way to measure progress is by increased engagement. What are the types of engagement factors that you're looking for to judge the News Feed? Is it likes, shares, or something else?

Jeff Kanter: We'll look at things such as Likes, comments, and Shares for different stories. We want to better understand how people are using it and how it compares to a current feed to see if it's an improvement in terms of consumption, feedback and engagement. That's a lot of what we care about. We wanted to build a product that really focused on the content that’s most relevant and also visually compelling.

As a result, we made a lot of the different stories bigger and more beautiful. And so, we want to see if people’s behaviors change in how to dive into some of the new filters we have on the home page.

Eric Enge: Right, if you’re going to introduce something as dramatic as the filter, you want to show that you’re providing better results for your users in the process.

Jeff Kanter: Exactly.

Eric Enge: Can you outline for me how the Page Post Ads in the news feed have done for you?

Jeff Kanter: We've had Page Post Ads for a couple of years. We introduced them into News Feed about a year ago. And so, in terms of Page Post Ads, specifically, it's been a really great product that's been working well for all types of advertisers with different objectives. One example is that it’s been working great for a lot of our direct response advertisers whose objective is to take people offsite somewhere to then take a specific action.

Page Post Ads in Facebook Newsfeed

We actually made a change in our current News Feed, not in the new design, to make link shares almost three times larger, which benefited users as well as advertisers. People could view a larger image for the links their friends share, and also link shares from advertisers. We made this change a couple months ago.

We've seen a lot of success with that so far. And then in the new design, there's also that larger link-share design, so we think it's really going to help direct-response advertisers that want to help people get offsite to take an action on their own website.

Eric Enge: Would it be fair to say that even as you introduce higher visibility for advertising content, you're seeking to maintain or increase engagement in the process? In other words, you seek to have the advertising the content well-matched enough that it's being seen as a positive addition by the viewing audience for the users.

Jeff Kanter: Yes, because this is just a visual change of News Feed, we aren't changing the delivery of how we serve ads in News Feed with this particular roll-out. We're always making changes to delivery and ranking. This particular change is about the visual layout of News Feed. So yes, you're absolutely right that we are going to be measuring engagement differences. We're going to take that into account and make sure we understand how engagement is impacted.

Eric Enge: I seem to remember reading that Mark Zuckerberg said something about Mobile playing a large role at driving the changes to the News Feed.

Jeff Kanter: Yes. We've learned a lot over the last year about how mobile design could actually help influence Desktop design, not just the other way around. So I think the most noteworthy thing to call out is how we now have bookmarks in the left-hand column. We've had bookmarks for a while, but the main difference was we borrowed some of the design that we've had on Mobile.

“We wanted to make the News Feed stand out, but still make bookmarks easily accessible; you can see how the new Desktop design mirrors the existing Mobile design that we've had.”

If you think about the bookmark tray on Mobile, in the current design, it's visually black and it's easily accessible from throughout the app. So, as we wanted to make the News Feed stand out, but still make bookmarks easily accessible, you can see how the new Desktop design mirrors the existing Mobile design that we've had.

I think the other noteworthy thing is you can now access your bookmarks as you navigate around the site on Desktop; whereas before you would have to navigate back to the News Feed to access your bookmarks. So even if I'm on my own personal Timeline, I can jump right to my bookmarks and jump off to a different part of the site versus having to go back to the News Feed to then access my bookmarks.

Newsfeed Bookmarks on Photos Screen

Eric Enge: Obviously, mobile usage is rising. Can you comment on the level of usage on Facebook?

“We actually now have over 750 million people that are using Facebook on mobile, which is exciting. It's up about 54 percent from last year (as of March 2013).”

Jeff Kanter: We actually now have over 750 million people that are using Facebook on mobile, which is exciting. It's up about 54 percent from last year (as of March 2013).

Eric Enge: Can you share anything on how that usage compares to desktop usage?

Jeff Kanter: The only thing that I can share is that in Q1, we're up to the point that roughly 30 percent of our ad revenue now is coming from Mobile versus Desktop. That's exciting. And that's like a pretty big shift from Q1 of last year, since we just launched ads in News Feed in Q1 of last year.

Eric Enge: Yes. The importance of images and visual experiences actually continues to grow and be emphasized on Facebook as well.

Jeff Kanter: That's certainly true. One of the drivers of the new design was that we've been seeing an increase in the number of photos that people are uploading to Facebook. That's part of the reason why the new News Feed, the visual layout, was designed to be more image-friendly and really make them stand out.

Eric Enge: Right. So if you have a business page on Facebook, it's really incumbent upon you to understand the impact that images has on the audience and really make it kind of a fundamental part of your approach to the content you put out.

Jeff Kanter: I would say that's the case a lot of the time. But we're also encouraging advertisers and businesses to focus on their primary objectives when they post from their Page. If their objective is to raise awareness of a particular product or an event, we encourage them to use photos and videos.

If their intent is actually to drive people offsite, our Page Post link Ads work really great which do have an image, but it's also a larger, clickable area to actually get people somewhere else.

So if your objective is awareness, your photo is going to bigger in the new News Feed so it should perform even better in terms of getting people to click and view the photo and actually see whatever product is being promoting.

Eric Enge: It kind of gets back to one of the maxims of the Web, which is; people are very impatient with the Web. Images deliver information and messaging very efficiently. So it's really important to leverage that to your advantage in the overall process. Any other comments before we wrap up?

Jeff Kanter: We're going to continue to roll this out over the next couple of weeks and months and we're excited to get this into the hands of more people. We think it's going to continue to be a great user experience, and also a great advertising experience. For News Feed ads, they’re already 8 times more engaging, 10 times more likely to be remembered, compared to the right-hand column, so we expect to continue seeing this strong performance.

We think we can actually continue to drive those metrics up and be one of the most effective places online to reach your audience.

Eric Enge: Thanks Jeff!

Jeff Kanter: Thank you Eric!

About Jeff

Jeff Kanter, who was named mobile-ad products manager about a month before the company rolled out its first mobile-ad service in March, has been with Facebook for five years.

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