In News Feed Revamp, Facebook Creates 'Personalized Newspaper'
Special to CNBC.com
Moving to make its user interface more visual and user-friendly, Facebook on Thursday unfurled new changes to the site's news feed, in an effort to create what its chief executive called a "personalized newspaper."
The changes to Facebook's ecosystem mimic popular photo-sharing sites such as Instagram — now owned by Facebook — and Pintrest, by giving more prominence to pictures and videos. It will also feature longer text, and more articles about people, places and things that are important to individual users.
Coming fast on the heels of a recent initiative to enhance its search function, the Palo Alto-based social network rolled out a new function that CEO Mark Zuckerberg said will allow users to share "whatever you want…and with any audience you want."
The new set-up will custom tailor user feeds to show more information – including pictures and videos – that they find of particular interest. Facebook said that it will give social network junkies more control over what they see, as well as what they share. The new feed will be available on both desktop and mobile.
In the current Facebook set-up, users are hit with a relentless blitz of unfiltered information when the access their accounts. The revamped news dashboard will go a long way toward helping people refine content that appears in their feeds.
"We believed the best personalized newspaper should have a broad diversity of content," Zuckerberg told reporters and Facebook employees at a media event. "The best personalized newspaper should be visual, rich and engaging, because the stories around you are intricate and detailed, and they deserve to be displayed with more than just text."
In certain respects, the new feed recalls a key aspect of Google's G-Plus network. G+'s "circle" concept gives its users broad latitude in how they share content, and with whom. Facebook's new layout, however, is more for the benefit of individual users themselves — allowing content owners to pick and choose what they see.
The move also underscores how Facebook is moving to embrace – and integrate – the Internet's more visual modes that have made sites like Tumblr and YouTube wildly popular. Consumers share a vast array of information and content, and often use social networks to help stories, pictures and videos go viral.
The changes have an added commercial benefit. Aside from allowing advertisers to target users based on their specific interests, analysts pointed out that the new interface ties directly into Facebook's push to capture more money from mobile revenues.
That segment of the market is a hot-button topic among social networks and technology companies, as buyers migrate increasingly to mobile devices to consume news and entertainment.
"If you look at the bigger picture of what's going on here, [Facebook is] coming out with more ads, more types of ads, which down the road moves the needle, because that's still investors' nagging question—how do they monetize the massive engagement they have," said Gene Munster,managing director at Piper Jaffray. His firm holds a $38 price target on Facebook with an "overweight" rating.
In afternoon trading on the Nasdaq, Facebook's stock rose by two percent to trade just shy of $28.
— CNBC's Paul Toscano contributed to this article.