Despite the surge of public backlash over Instagram’s recent changes, fueled by internet powerhouses Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is unmoved. He said the photo-sharing app, if it can still be called that, will show twice as much AI-recommended content by the end of next year in the interest of, you guessed it, money.
In an earnings call on Wednesday, one day after Instagram head honcho Adam Mosseri posted a Reel to try to quell the online backlash from the app’s users, Zuckerberg explained that social feeds across the company’s apps would shift from being driven “primarily by people and accounts you follow” to increasingly also being driven by content recommended by AI, even if you don’t follow the users who created the content.
Specifically, the Meta CEO said that he expects AI-recommended content from people you don’t follow to make up about 30% or more of users’ Facebook and Instagram feeds by the end of 2023. Your feeds are currently made up of about 15% AI-promoted content, according to Meta.
“Social content from people you know is going to remain an important part of the experience and some of our most differentiated content, but increasingly we’ll also be able to supplement that with other interesting content from across our networks,” Zuckerberg stated, according to a transcript of the earnings call.
The clearest example of this shift on Instagram is the sudden abundance of Reels—which many have criticized for being random, not catered to their interests, or reposted from TikTok—in user feeds. However, Zuckerberg said that the AI recommended content spectrum is much broader, encompassing “texts, images, links, group content, and more.” In other words, although you might be annoyed by the random Reels all over your feed, it’s only the beginning.
“Building a recommendation system across all these types of content is something we’re uniquely focused on,” the Meta chief said.
The reasons why Meta is insisting on shaking things up on its platforms and building a so-called “discovery engine” are like a Reel on repeat by this point. For one, it’s terrified of TikTok, which has ridden its recommendation system to global success. In response, Meta has tried to do one of the things it’s best at: copying features. Users are resistant, though, as the “Make Instagram Instagram Again” movement backed Jenner and Kardashian shows.
Secondly, there’s the money problem. On Wednesday, Meta reported its first ever revenue decline in its decade as a public company, losing 1% in revenue and 36% in profit year-over-year. In addition to these financial hits, Meta is also suffering from the same reduced demand in digital advertising affecting peers including Google, Twitter, and Snap. Meta affirmed on Wednesday that it expects the weak demand for advertising to continue in the current quarter.
Faced with this outlook, Meta is obviously looking for another golden goose egg. It believes it has found it, according to Zuckerberg, in AI-recommended content. Zuckerberg said that in the last quarter, Meta had seen a more than 30% increase in the time that users spent engaging with Reels on Instagram and Facebook. These increases were driven largely by advances in the company’s AI recommendation models.
“As our AI finds additional content that people find interesting, that increases engagement and the quality of our feeds. Since we’re already efficient at monetizing most of these formats, this should increase our business opportunity over that period as well,” he said.