Facebook's transformation into a media app

Facebook is the social network that defined what a social network was. It took real world social relationships into the digital world. Everything that people did offline, was now online on Facebook. You could have groups of friends, message them individually or in a group. Share posts and pictures, and most importantly get updates from all of the friends via News Feed. Facebook made it simple to stay updated with life events of everyone from your middle school friends to college friends.

Facebook has evolved over the years and has now changed fundamentally. If you login to Facebook today, you will not see status updates from friends, or pictures posted by friends. You will see news stories from Business Insider that were liked by your friends, or you might see other funny content like videos or memes that one your friends commented on. Facebook has turned from a social network to a media hub like Yahoo! was a decade ago. Except in this case, the content you see is what your friends like, so you might enjoy it as well (if you share a similar taste to your friends). Facebook also has Pages which allow brands like Pepsi or Unilever promote their products on the social media website, which show up as sponsored content in your feed. This is the new way to advertise products to the next generation. However, it has morphed a place where you communicated with friends and read about their life events, into a place where you go to read news you might be interested in, watch videos, and consume content that is created by an external website like Business Insider or one of the Facebook Pages that posts humorous content. Of course you might also see some updates posted by friends on rare occasions.

The main issue here is that there is a market for a social network. People wanted a place to communicate with friends online, share pictures, and hear about what their friends were doing. Facebook addressed this market by launching their service several years ago. However, their evolution has changed the service fundamentally into a media hub or a personalized news app. They are heading in a Yahoo! direction. While Facebook is still a place people spend their time, will it be a destination if it continues in this trajectory?

Facebook Pages is a good product as it creates a place for brands, celebrities, music bands, and special interests. Its also a good catalyst for ads, which are needed as the service survives on ad revenue. But at the end of the day, its a balancing act. Users seeing some content from pages that they are interested in, will keep the engagement high, but at the same time seeing most of the content in the News Feed come from either external news sources or pages that create media content, drive away from the concept of a social network.

While Facebook will continue to do well in the short to medium term, its crucial that they dedicate resources to building the News Feed algorithm as its the heart of the social network. Its what people see when the come to Facebook. If they rarely see status updates from friends or pictures posted by friends, and mostly see news articles and humorous posts by random Facebook Pages, then the notion of Facebook will change. It will start being viewed as a media hub. I feel that a need for a social network exists and a media hub is a completely different space. Its up to Facebook to steer into either direction.