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1/17/2014
12:56 PM
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Facebook Sees Green In Trending Topics

What is Facebook up to highlighting trending topics? Think advertiser clout compared to Twitter and online news sites.

7 Facebook Wishes For 2014
7 Facebook Wishes For 2014
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Facebook launched its latest move to become your go-to destination for news with a new feature called Trending. This module, found in the upper right-hand column of the news feed, displays a personalized list of popular topics. It is rolling out gradually to users in the United States, Canada, Britain, India, and Australia.

Facebook highlights the topics shown in Trending based on a number of factors, including your interests, who's commenting on a topic, how recently a topic has surged on Facebook, and how much your friends are engaging with it.

Clicking on a headline opens a page where you can explore related posts shared by your friends, pages, and other publicly shared items.

[Get a grip on your Facebook account. Read 10 Most Misunderstood Facebook Privacy Facts.]

Facebook's Trending feature has been promised since June 2013, when it announced the launch of hashtags. Since then, Facebook has tested Trending in limited release.

While Facebook's Trending module is similar to Twitter's Trends box, launching its own version of hot topics is essential to propel Facebook's content strategy, said Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter Group.

"Facebook is utterly dependent on new and fresh content because that's how it draws an audience. If people aren't updating their status or uploading pictures, Facebook gets stale and people won't return," she said. "Facebook is increasingly becoming a new place for news discovery, and by algorithmically updating it to display new content, it's sweetening the pot. It's making Facebook a more compelling content destination."

Shifting its focus to content, Lieb pointed out, will also likely pique the interest of advertisers. "When Facebook has more information on the news you're consuming, it can better target ads to you," she said. "Facebook needs to keep getting its audience to come back more and more frequently to consume this increasingly rich river of content."

Trending is Facebook's latest addition to a number of recent content-driven updates. In December, it announced changes to its News Feed algorithm that puts more emphasis on shared articles and deemphasizes memes. It also added a box for related stories.

"The goal of News Feed is to show the right content to the right people at the right time whether it's from a close friend or a news source halfway across the world," Varun Kacholia, Facebook engineering manager, and Minwen Ji, a Facebook software engineer, wrote in a blog post explaining the news feed changes. The update "recognizes that people want to see more relevant news and what their friends have to say about it."

Facebook is also rumored to be launching a news reader soon. Reportedly called Paper, it stemmed from a botched redesign of Facebook's News Feed. It will function either as a standalone mobile app or a web experience for mobile devices.

Lieb noted that Facebook's content push shouldn't be overlooked. "Facebook is really a tremendous force to be reckoned with. It's the largest medium in history, which is really pretty staggering. Nothing has ever had in excess of a billion users -- no TV, no newspaper, no magazine."

Senior editor Kristin Burnham covers social media, social business, and IT leadership and careers for InformationWeek.com. Contact her at Kristin.Burnham@ubm.com or follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

Can the trendy tech strategy of DevOps really bring peace between developers and IT operations -- and deliver faster, more reliable app creation and delivery? Also in the DevOps Challenge issue of InformationWeek: Execs charting digital business strategies can't afford to take Internet connectivity for granted.

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snaxking
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snaxking,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 8:44:59 PM
For those people who are looking to get rid of the new Trending Box
I found a great method for hiding this latest Facebook monstrosity. It seems facebooks main role is to keep prodding you with stuff to try and get your attention every 5 minutes, which is not conducive to getting anything done.

The solution for a quiet life and to get rid of Facebook plague of information overload, is the marvelous FB Purity browser extension. Its completely safe, free aand one of the highest rated extensions around, so you can be sure, this is the real deal.

As well as hiding the Trending Topics, it also lets you Disable Autoplay videos, hide all the ads, and many other useful functions for making Facebook less annoying.

If you are interested, you can get it here: http://fbpurity.com
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 8:24:33 PM
Re: Facebook for news
Content based on your friend list is a good point -- a fraction of my Facebook friends are my close friends; others are former classmates and coworkers and acquaintances. I probably don't have a lot in common with most of them, so we'll see how useful the suggestions are.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 12:53:44 PM
Re: Facebook for news
The problem with having "trending" topics based on what my friends are reading on Facebook is that I have a variety of friends and don't always share common interests with them. But I do think Facebook can still be a good news source. You must be proactive though. When you follow pubs and websites on FB that are important to you (NYTimes, Wash Post etc), your FB news feed can become a good resource. I've designed it this way, de-emphasizing (hiding) friends and emphasizing news and media. I've discovered a lot of great content this way. I keep friends around who share my interest in news and media (with the hope that they will post interesting content). But I've admittedly hidden friends who post fluff.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/21/2014 | 8:36:25 AM
Re: Facebook for news
I don't turn to Facebook for news. Like another commenter said, I go there to see what my friends are up to. But I do discover news there. I follow a number of news pages and organizations on Facebook and do come across news stories I haven't seen and articles to read. 

I'm not sure yet how useful the trending topics will be; so far they've been mostly celebrity-focused and I haven't found any interesting enough to drill down further.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/20/2014 | 4:05:09 PM
Re: Facebook for news
For me, FB does not even provide 1% of the content that I am looking for or would like to find. FB does try to offer suggestion, but mostly those suggestions are pointless, if their suggestion could be more like youtube then maybe FB could provide more content that is consumed.

FB trending might be able to provide value that Google trending can't provide for example, suppose I am a law student and I have added many friends who are also law students, if treading could pick up on discussions and contents that are relevant then it might work out.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/18/2014 | 2:58:13 AM
Re: Facebook for news
I think they're barking up the wrong tree. When I go to Facebook, it's to exchange gossip with my friends. The news comes up occasionally, but what we're all here for is the latest divorce, birthday, or a video of someone's dog in action. Nope, Facebook isn't the place that you go for news.
6 one way half a dozen another
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6 one way half a dozen another,
User Rank: Strategist
1/18/2014 | 1:02:21 AM
Re: Facebook for news
Currently Facebook plays no role in how I get the lastest news. With no filters for topics to get the stories I want, Facebook has zero interest from me. If the Reader app is more than a rumor, is available on desktop AND has filtering by topic (e.g. not just sports, not just hockey, but the Chicago Blackhawks), then I will consider it. Otherwise, it will only fit with those who have a casual or passing interest in the news and be another sign that Facebook is incapable of making a real product.

BTW: beyond catching up with my extended family, I don't use Facebook for anything else since most of its own features are not very useful.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/17/2014 | 1:42:03 PM
Facebook for news
Facebook users: What role does Facebook play in the content you discover and read?
Social is a Business Imperative
Social is a Business Imperative
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