NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen was upset yesterday about Facebook’s Follow function, which lets users see other people’s posts without becoming their friends. Rosen wrote a short Facebook post about how journalists and other “content creators” can’t tell which of their followers see their posts. “Facebook decides that. How is a mystery,” explains Rosen. “Relevance. Algorithm. Beyond that, you’re left clueless.”
More than 180,000 people follow Rosen on Facebook. Following is not the same as an email subscription, where each subscriber gets every message sent. Delivery of each post is at the mercy of the social network’s algorithms, so Rosen’s posts aren’t shown to all of his 180,000+ followers.
Facebook “busted” a deal with content creators, says Rosen. It’s a deal that he once understood to be:
“You don’t whine about working and producing for free, we give your stuff distribution to the people who have elected to receive it.”
I can’t confirm that such a deal was ever made, but here is an interesting entry from Facebook’s answer to the question, “What does it mean to follow someone?”
That looks like a subscription to me. Facebook’s definition doesn’t include a qualifier before “their posts.” It doesn’t say “some of their posts” or “many of their posts” or “a selection of their posts.” It says that I will see the posts of the people I’ve decided to follow.
What do you think? Did Facebook break its deal with you when you chose to Follow someone? Do you want to see every post from every person you Follow?