01/02/2018 08:44 GMT | Updated 01/02/2018 16:02 GMT

Facebook Use Declines While Profits Soar Since News Feed Changes

'2017 was ... a hard year'

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that since the major overhaul he announced for the site, user engagement in the social network has dropped in the US and Canada. 

According to figures provided by Zuckerberg, time spent on Facebook has gone down by around 50 million hours every day, or around 2 minutes per person.

Following the company’s fourth quarter earnings call Zuckerberg posted a statement on Facebook explaining in detail what the changes would mean for the future and also the more immediate effects they’d seen to the site.

Earlier this month Zuckerberg revealed a set of sweeping changes to Facebook’s News Feed that would see less posts from business and media content while increasing the number of posts by friends, family and local news outlets.

Calling 2017 a “strong year...but...also a hard one” the founder made the rare decision to reveal specific metrics around how much people were using the site less.

“We estimate these updates decreased time spent on Facebook by roughly 5% in the fourth quarter.” he explained.

Stephen Lam / Reuters

“To put that another way: we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by an estimated 50 million hours every day to make sure people’s time is well spent. That’s how serious we are about this.”

Now it should be noted that this drop wasn’t a shock for the company. It was predicted by Zuckerberg when he first announced the changes saying:

“Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down. But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

Despite the drop in user engagement the changes don’t appear to have affected the company’s ability to make money, in fact profits soared at the company over 56%, pulling in some $16bn of profit.

News Feed Changes

Earlier this month Facebook announced a major overhaul to the way in which people interact with the social network.

Citing user feedback, a rise in fake news and recent research surrounding mental health and social networks, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would start showing less content from businesses, brands and media organisations including news sites.

“The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being.” he wrote.

“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos ― even if they’re entertaining or informative ― may not be as good.”

Earlier this week Zuckerberg revealed it had already started implementing its next phase of the changes which would focus on promoting local news.

In a status on his personal page, Zuckerberg said this is a move that people have asked for: “People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook.”

“Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives.”

So what do these changes mean? Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening to Facebook over the next 12 months:

  • You will start seeing a lot less posts from brands, business and media outlets including news organisations. This actually started happening back in 2016 but Facebook will take increasingly greater steps to hide these posts from your feed over the coming months.

  • You will start seeing a lot more posts from the human beings you follow.

  • If you do see a post from a brand or news organisation it will have to create “meaningful interactions” between you and your friends. Essentially, Facebook wants it to be a place where you talk about the news, not simply consume it.

  • Facebook has already started investing heavily in increasing interactivity between its users through the creation of Facebook Spaces.

  • A renewed focus on groups and communities will allow people who have common interests to engage with each other on the site.

  • Video has “exploded” on Facebook in the last few years so while you’re still going to see a lot of video, it’s likely that more of it will be coming from people you know, or have common interests with rather than from brands or media organisation.

  • Facebook has announced no specific changes to its other products like Messenger, or Instagram but in his statement Zuckerberg did say that this new approach would roll out in its “other products” over the coming months.

  • Explore Feed: This is an experimental second News Feed that Facebook has been trialling in some countries. At the moment it’s being trialled as a version of Instagram’s own ‘Explore’ section allowing users finding new people and groups to engage with but there have been rumours that it could even become the new home for businesses and media.