Facebook responds to New York Times writer’s claims about News Feed

Facebook today issued a response to a recent article by a New York Times writer who claimed that the lower amount of engagement he’s seeing on personal posts is the result of the social network suppressing organic content in order to earn more revenue from Promoted Posts.

Facebook says the writer’s claims are false and that the article is based on limited anecdotal evidence that is not representative of the platform as a whole. The company noted that overall, engagement has improved for most people who have turned on the Follow feature, which allows Facebook users to have public followers like on Twitter. New York Times writer Nick Bilton this weekend wrote that despite an increase in his number of followers, the number of Likes and comments he generally receives has decreased. Facebook says overall engagement on posts from people with more than 10,000 followers has increased 34 percent year over year.

The company says, “A few data points should not be taken as representative of what actually is happening overall. There are numerous factors that may affect distribution, including quality and number of posts.”

Not only did Bilton make assumptions that his personal experience was the norm, but he suggested that Facebook was artificially limiting reach so that users would purchase Promoted Posts. This is a similar claim that many businesses and popular figures made in Fall 2012. Today Facebook wrote on its press site, “This is not true.” The company says its goal with News Feed is “always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest.”

For instance, Facebook pointed out that when it first launched Follow — formerly called Subscribe — it had a lot of adoption, but over time some users began to engage less frequently with public figures they followed and so the News Feed began to show those users fewer stories from those figures.

And as we’ve written about frequently, competition for any given story to be featured in News Feed is higher than ever. Users are connected to more people, pages, groups and apps, all of which are generating more posts and activity than before. Facebook has opened up the feed to Open Graph apps, posts from users you subscribe tointerest listsOffers, Gifts, upcoming events, recent articlesSponsored Stories and more. With a growing pool of potential stories, the likelihood of any particular post getting organic distribution in the feed decreases. To combat this, users and businesses can pay to get their posts seen by more people.

Also read News Feed, EdgeRank and page posts: what’s really going on with Facebook?