Facebook’s Beautiful New News Feed Has An Ugly Side

Facebook’s Beautiful New News Feed Has An Ugly Side

The new new new new News Feed is Facebook’s latest stab at rendering your swarming, swirling online life easier to digest, according to Facebook. Yes, it’s cleaner than a German toilet. Yes, it’s beautiful. But, more importantly, it’s about Facebook making more money. It’s about ads. Bigger, distracting, super ads.

This isn’t speculation, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. Since the day Facebook went public, it’s struggled to convince investors that it can make as much money as the world predicted it someday might. So far, the moneyed world is sceptical. In January, Zuckerberg told shivering investors the following:

Advertisers want really rich things like big pictures or videos, and we haven’t provided those things historically. But one of the things that we’ve done in the last year, as you’ve seen, the organic News Feed product that consumers use are moving towards bigger pictures, richer media, and I think you will continue to see it go in that direction…So I think you see the trend there in terms of where it’s going and that’s just naturally going to make it, so we can deliver much more engaging advertising experiences than we were traditionally able to do and when we didn’t have those types of content in the system.

Emphasis added. What’s an “engaging ad”? An ad you can’t avoid looking at because it’s so large. Sauce for the goose will be sauce for the advertising exec here — the exact same design that will flatter your holiday photo album and giant, handsome updates from Justin Timberlake on the New News Feed will let Facebook shove bigger, prettier, undeniable advertisements in your face. Ads that move, ads that shine, ads that stretch themselves across a bigger swath of your screen than ever before.

This is simple geometry.

On the left is how your updates used to look. On the right is how they’ll look in the New News Feed. Ads too.

Corporations already relish the ability to jam big beautiful pictures of the things they sell into Facebook’s prize horse, Instagram:

And at its New News Feed announcement today, Facebook Vice President of Product Chris Cox confirmed that nothing about ads in the feed is changing, except the size. You’ll be able to hide them to the extent that you can right now, but they will grow. They will fill the same big bowl that music, friends, articles and videos do. They will look more like those things, because advertisers want their ads to be as pretty as possible in the hope that you might click or even just glance at them. Because if Facebook can convince advertisers that bigger ads are worth more money, Facebook’s stock might start climbing out of the canyon. And it needs to.

We can complain and bleat and pound our tight fists onto desktops over how Facebook is invading our feeds with marketing crap. Ideally, yes, there would be no ads. Ideally Mark Zuckerberg would be some hoary old philanthropist who runs Facebook for the public good and doesn’t view his billion users into commodities. There would be no ads! Facebook would be a charitable institution.

But Facebook is a company, and companies need to make money, and companies owe you nothing when you’re paying nothing to them. You’ll forget that ads were ever smaller than this until the next time they get bigger, and we’ll all get on with our lives and share larger snapshots of them on this larger news feed, forever and ever, amen.