Facebook keeps coming up with ways to reduce the amount of bloat in people's news feeds. But while recent efforts have angered those putting out that bloat -- advertisers and social gaming firms -- Facebook's latest move seems intended to pre-empt any pushback.
Facebook unveiled a few new tools on Wednesday to give publishers a better shot at making sure people on Facebook see their stories.
One tool lets publishers target their Facebook posts at a subset of their fans interested in certain topics. Another lets publishers put an expiration date on their posts so that timely stories like "What time does the Super Bowl start?" don't pop up in people's feeds a week after the big game. And a third tool serves as a backup for publishers who might not be aware a story has struck a social chord. Called Smart Publishing, it identifies a story that a lot of people are linking to on Facebook and, for publishers who opt-in, then posts it in the news feeds of people who like that publisher's Facebook page.
As Re/code pointed out, a lot of publishers rely on Facebook for an increasingly large share of their traffic. But even more people rely on Facebook to keep tabs on not just the news but also what's going on with their friends, so Facebook has had to find a way to strike a balance between the two without aggravating either side.
Facebook's new publishing tools appear to be one way to do that. And the company unveiled another earlier on Wednesday when it announced the addition of its "Trending" section to mobile. While not a replacement for the news feed, Trending organizes of-the-moment news events into five categories: articles, posts from people involved in the story, posts from friends about the story, posts from people in proximity to the story, and a Twitter-like live feed of posts related to the story. Trending gives Facebook a way to possibly reassert itself as a place to find out about breaking news events like the Ferguson, Missouri, protests as opposed to just viewing ice bucket challenges. And it gives the company an outlet for that coverage as people's news feeds continue to fill.