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Facebook's Feed Change Could Reduce Time Spent on the Platform

It's an outcome the company acknowledges is a real possibility

Facebook likely sent publishers into a panic last week when it announced that it was revamping the way its News Feed worked to prioritize updates from users' friends and family members over other media.

The move seemed like a pre-emptive strike against a groundswell of criticism that Facebook has suffered of late over the growing influence the platform has in the public sphere.

In a Facebook post on January 11, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that users would "see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media," a move that's likely to impact both brand advertisers and companies that use Facebook to publish owned media.

While it's still too early to tell what the implications of Facebook's changes to its News Feed might be, one area that's likely to be affected is the time users spend on the platform.

eMarketer's latest forecast for time spent with Facebook in the US, published in September 2017, estimates users will average 42 minutes per day on the platform in 2018. Growth of time spent has largely plateaued, and will increase by 1 minute to an average of 43 minutes per day in 2019.

In December 2017, RBC Capital Markets queried US Facebook users about their time spent on the platform. It found that at least one-quarter of respondents between the ages of 13 and 35 expected to decrease the amount of time they spend on the social network over the coming year.

In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg acknowledged that the changes were likely to impact Facebook, and by extension, its revenues. "By making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down," he said.

In a separate Facebook blog post from January 11, Adam Mosseri, Facebook's vice president of product management, wrote that Pages were also likely to suffer as a result of the revamp. "Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease," he said. "The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it."