In its 2018 Q2 earnings announcement, Facebook indicated that their revenue growth could reduce significantly if users continue the trend for focussing the majority of their viewing time on Stories, as opposed to the News Feed. Its share price dropped 20%, destroying $120 billion in the company’s value.
This is because Facebook and Messenger Stories are currently only used by 300 million people a day. An obscenely large number, yet less than 10% of Facebook’s user base. Compared to Instagram, 40% of whose users interact with Stories every day, it’s a relatively insignificant bracket.
With this in mind, Facebook is eager to preempt what’s beginning to look like a shift to Stories. So, the company has begun to experiment with a new carousel-style layout for the News Feed, that would behave in exactly the same way as Stories. The experiment also merges Feeds and Stories into the same stream. Frequent TechCrunch contributor and reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong spotted the prototype for this new Feed in the Android version of Facebook, and screen-captured her findings:
As you can see, in this prototype, when a News Feed post’s header or surrounding space is tapped, users see a full-screen version of the post. From there, they can swipe left to reveal the next piece of content in the carousel, which may be one of four things:
Traditional News Feed posts
News Feed ads
Vertical Stories ads
Despite swiping to keep the carousel rotating, users are still able to Like, react or comment on Feed posts while in this interface.
If Facebook’s News Feed engagement is in an overall state of decline – many reports suggest it is – and Stories engagement is growing, then it’s implied that users are losing interest in the main News Feed and looking elsewhere.
Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s actively experimenting with this hybrid News Feed/Stories approach, but also noted that it’s still in the very early stages of development.A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that “We are currently not testing this publicly” as the company must still complete the user research phase before any public experimentation.
As the importance of Facebook’s News Feed slowly declines, Stories presents the most pressing area of engagement for publishers that use Facebook. To connect these two areas is to connect the area users are beginning to spend the majority of their time in with the area that, for now, is driving Facebook’s revenue. A canny move on the company’s part, and one it’s worth keeping an eye one.