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Your Facebook News Feed Is About To Get More Timely

Facebook is updating its ranking algorithm to determine which stories are more important in a given moment than others.

Posted on September 18, 2014, at 1:45 p.m. ET

Valentin Flauraud / Reuters / Reuters

Facebook is rolling out a small update to its News Feed algorithm today that will prioritize and rank timely, "trending" posts higher than they were before.

Now, Facebook stories from friends or Facebook pages that are tied to trending topics on Facebook — such specific movies, actors, and news events — are more likely to appear higher in news feed. Facebook stories that are tied to trending topics have slightly higher engagement than other stories, Facebook software engineer Erich Owens and engineer manager David Vickrey wrote in a blog post detailing the update.

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"We've heard feedback that there are some instances where a post from a friend or a Page you are connected to is only interesting at a specific moment, for example when you are both watching the same sports game, or talking about the season premiere of a popular TV show," Owens and Vickrey wrote. "There are also times when a post that is a day or two old may not be relevant to you anymore. Our latest update to News Feed ranking looks at two new factors to determine if a story is more important in the moment than other types of updates."

Facebook will also track when people are liking and commenting on status updates, and take that into account when ranking stories in News Feed. If Facebook users are liking and commenting on a News Feed story very quickly, the story will be ranked higher. Likewise, if the rate at which users like and comment on the story starts to decline, it will be ranked lower. This also affects which stories that weren't initially seen are "bumped" to the top of a user's News Feed.

"This is one more way that we're working to identify timely posts so we can show them nearer the top of your News Feed sooner," the pair wrote.

In theory, this move should help to boost news content on Facebook but, as always, the content a user sees in News Feed will continue to be dependent on the content that user's friends and Pages post. So while it may be a bit more likely to see news higher in your feed, polarizing stories that — think back to last month's breaking news in Ferguson — may not necessarily share well may still be harder to come by.

The company said it would be rolling out changes gradually to its user base.

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