Younger readers key to Facebook makeover

(Photo: Reuters / Robert Galbraith)Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures while speaking to the audience during a media event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California March 7, 2013.

Some critics of Facebook say it resembles an alleyway of noise and clutter, making users turn off and move on.

So they are asking if the homepage redesign announced last week by CEO Mark Zuckerberg will actually keep younger users.

It features bigger pictures, a cleaner look and a series of optional feeds that will let users focus on photos, music or specialized topics.

At the March 7 launch of the redesign Zuckerberg said, it could eventually let Facebook show users bigger advertisements in the stream of updates and posts. But he suggested the change will be gradual.

As bigger images and links invade the front page, the side bar, will remain hidden on the left side, to leave more space for the center.

The one stream has been replaced by the option of many. But if users choose to follow the all friends stream, they will be seeing just their friends' post.

Facebook did not specify whether it would be increasing ads.

Two of its present challenges are how to keep users glued and how to lure more advertisers.

Bigger photos seen on the news feed could be advantageous for brands, which value images over words. Zuckerbeg is hoping the various streams will entice users to stay longer and search through.

He said he wants Facebook to be "the best personalized newspaper in the world."

Facebook's algorithms will continue to filter the posts that come up on each person's main news feed, while allowing them to choose topics of interest, switching between feeds, and scrolling down a feed page of products and people they follow.

Some FB commentators have tweeted they are not comfortable with the all-controlling site.

"When you follow someone of twitter, you see everything they post. When you follow someone of Facebook it decides what you see!" posted Lawrence Pedrosa on Twitter.

Some users are annoyed by the sponsored ads, repeated memes and rehashed information and the makeover may only serve to calm members who are not content with the noise.

"Dear FB…Suggested Apps, sponsored Ads, and shares are getting ready to be a deal-breaker for me," posted Traci Master on Twitter.

Back in 2004, when Facebook launched, Twitter, pinterest and foursquare were not in existence.

Now Facebook faces competition, from equally savvy social networks.

In that manner, it's following the familiar strategies of successful social networking ideas that focus on images, small amounts of information, and stream options.

The history of Facebook points to each makeover getting a negative reaction, followed by acceptance. But some are just switching.

Teens seem more likely to frequent instagram, Tumblr and Twitter and leave the social giant.

According to Time, Facebook itself even acknowledged the challenge of keeping teens engaged in its annual 10-K report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February.

"We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for," Facebook stated.

The younger audience may be looking for new sites that offer more privacy and less prying eyes from older members. And with the advent of games and social apps on their smart phones, there is less reason to tune in.

Still, Facebook is not devoid of teens.

According to a 2011 study, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found eight out of 10 teens who are online, use social networking sites, and 93 percent of those users have a Facebook account.

The new FB design may have the ability drive more young users to the site now that its focusing on images.

"There's a change in the social media landscape," said Pheed CEO O.D. Kobo, in a Time article. "No young people want to open up their timeline and read a novel. It's not quick enough. The younger demographic today is much more [into] multimedia."

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News