There was a time when our Facebook feeds were full of status posts from our friends, and interesting photos from their day to day lives. But this time has sadly come and gone. Now our feeds are non-stop tabloid shock-reels full of headlines designed to force you to click them in order to reveal some salacious new piece of information. These so called ‘clickbait’ articles have proven to be immensely successful for online publishers, due to their effective exploitation of Facebook’s News Feed algorithms.
Now Facebook is finally waking up to the fact that its users actually don’t like this kind of content, and that this may be one of the reasons people are leaving the social network. In a blog post they explain:
...when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through. Over time, stories with “click-bait” headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about.
With this in mind, the company has outlined measures that it will begin to take in order to minimise the number of clickbait articles within the News Feed. In order to identify which articles are clickbait and which are not, Facebook plans to primarily make use of the ‘time spent on page’ metric. They explain:
If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted.
In addition to this, Facebook also plans to look at the ratio between clicks and engagement with a post. Stories with a high click rate, but a statistically significant lower rate of engagement, indicate poor quality clickbait, and Facebook plans to hide these sorts of stories.
In further changes the social network also plans to punish sites which share links alongside a picture post, rather than in the standard link format. Facebook believes its users like this kind of format better, and writes that it is a better format for marketers too, as it also has high rates of click-through.
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