Newspapers have been worried about Facebook for a long time. As the print business withers and papers continue to struggle developing a digital strategy and making ends meet, the world of online advertising is exploding, especially for anything with the word "social" in front of it. Meanwhile, not only were advertisers spending money at places like Facebook instead of newspapers, peoples' eyeballs shifted from ink and tree to pixel and screen.
So when Mark Zuckerberg took the stage on Thursday to announce the new News Feed — you know, the one with a little newspaper for an icon — it must've stung a little when he described the redesign as a "personalized newspaper."
Facebook even added sections like Music and Photos so that you can sort through the torrent of content that people are uploading to Facebook every day for free. (Newspapers still have to pay their writers. Well, most of them anyway.) Zuck added, "As what we all share changes, the composition of News Feed should change as well."
In other words, this beast transforms. And this is where the comparison to newspapers really sort of falls apart. When Mark Zuckerberg said the phrase "personalized newspaper," he didn't really mean the smelly thing on your parents' doorstep. He's really talking about this new thing that most people haven't seen before.
It's the world's most powerful stream of content, both user generated and paid, with the new ability to navigate based on interest, follow topics and who knows what else. It's as if someone threw Tumblr, Twitter and BuzzFeed into a blender full of Facebook syrup and hit "Liquefy." Or at least it seems that way.
This is a pretty big upgrade. In its current form, the News Feed is just a big long stream of stuff: photos, status updates, links and, yes, ads. You get two options for sorting the posts by time and by top stories.
However, in its new form, the posts that show up in the News Feed are bigger, bolder and definitely more visual. Photos span the column and comments are better integrated. The left rail is basically gone. A column of icons that apparently adjust position based on how much you use them takes its place. And, notably, the design looks and works the same on any device.
But at the end of the day, the new News Feed doesn't replace your local newspaper any more than Twitter replaces a stock ticker. It's still just Facebook. It's not like you're going to start seeing Facebook correspondents covering the White House and wars overseas. Facebook is still your friends from high school uploading pictures of their babies, your exes showing up in your Feed when you least expect it and your parents making inappropriate comments on your photos.
If you really want a personalized newspaper, go buy a copy of The New York Times and throw away the sections you don't like.