With Interest Lists, Facebook Wants to Be a Personalized Newspaper
First we had Twitter Lists. Then Facebook Friends lists. Then smart lists. And now, Facebook is introducing Interest lists as a way to push relevant content up in the increasingly cluttered news feed.
Facebook users will be able to subscribe to broadly defined Interest lists, such as sports, or more specific ones, like NFL football. The lists are created by users, and are comprised of public-figure profiles and pages. Facebook says this is a separate product from Friends lists, but users can add friends to an Interest list. Once a user joins an Interest list, Facebook says, the top stories from each Interest group will appear in that users’ news feed.
The social networking giant, which recently filed to go public, said Interest lists would be rolled out to users in the coming weeks.
The blog Social Fresh first reported that Interest lists were in the works after spotting them when Facebook introduced brand-focused Timelines last week.
In some respects, Facebook’s Interest lists are not unlike Twitter Lists, which the microblogging site launched in 2009 as a way for Twitter users to organize their feeds and follow people based on certain criteria, such as “celebrities” or “tech journalists” or “friends.”
But Facebook has already attempted to smarten up its Friends lists. Interest lists are supposed to be more about the organization of all that content cluttering news feeds — especially now that users can “Subscribe” to a person’s feed without having to “Friend” them.
While lists and feeds are essentially a way to organize what you’re seeing on social networks, the end goal is really to keep people using the site, as more and more content is shared through feeds. It’s easy enough to “Unfollow” or “Unfriend” users if their posts become irrelevant, so here’s a way to hide them and push up the stuff that users say they care about.
It could also be seen as a way for Facebook — which is describing Interest lists as a sort of personalized newspaper — to glean more information about a user’s interests without them necessarily having to “Like” something, though Facebook says nothing has changed in terms of how it places ads.
The move comes on the heels of a Pew Internet Research report showing that social network users are increasingly “Unfriending” people and looking to tweak their profiles, due in part to growing concerns about privacy.