Why Is the Washington Post at the Top of My Facebook Feed Yet Again?
It seems every time I’ve visited Facebook in recent weeks, I’m greeted front and center with a box of stories that my friends have read on the Washington Post. Occasionally, they’re articles I’m interested in, but often they’re things I’ve already seen — or just the latest Kardashian development.
I know my friends are sharing more interesting things about their own lives on Facebook, but these dang stories are almost always at the very top.
After uninstalling and hiding the app failed to stop this from happening, I asked Facebook and the Washington Post what was going on, and how I could make it stop.
They said the box I’m seeing is an aggregated list of activity from news apps, with the new “frictionless” Open Graph that shows every single story my participating friends read.
Because Facebook has rolled out to only a few news apps, and the Washington Post Social Reader seems to be by far the most popular with my friends, Facebook’s algorithm keeps determining that it’s very relevant to me.
You can see this in the screenshots a Facebook spokeswoman sent me, embedded here. The news box above is missing the “hide all” option offered for Spotify, below. (Her news box happened to include the reading activity of Washington Post CEO Don Graham, who is on the Facebook board of directors.)
The Washington Post automatically shares every story read on its site by anyone who has installed its Social Reader App. (And that’s a lot of people — the app has 1.9 million monthly active users, according to Facebook, including about a quarter of my Facebook friends.) The publication aggressively promotes its app to those users’ friends, by asking them to install it when they click from Facebook on a link to a Washington Post story.
For his part, Washington Post Chief Digital Officer Vijay Ravindran said the integration with Facebook is a work in progress.
“We’re excited to be part of a small set of apps that are learning as Facebook is learning about the power of the Open Graph,” Ravindran said. “We’re encouraged by how things are going to date but we also know that we could do a better job having a more engaging app and there’s a lot of evolution to build upon what they’ve done.”
A Facebook spokeswoman said the best way for a user to downvote the aggregated news story box is to right-click and select the “unmark as top news” option.
“This is something we’re testing, and we’re continuing to gather feedback based on people’s actions with these stories and others related to the Open Graph,” she said.
My experience is, of course, biased by my news-junkie habits and the preferences of my particular set of friends. According to AppData, the Washington Post Social reader has 210,000 daily users, while the Guardian’s Facebook app has 420,000. A spokeswoman for Yahoo said 400,000 people are opting in per day to share their news-reading activity on Facebook.
Anyway, there are lots of things to complain about in the world and on Facebook, but I thought I’d let you know that I tried to get to the bottom of this one.
Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.