Clickbait Publishers, Your Time Is Almost Over On Facebook

Facebook changes the NewsFeed once again but with the intention of stopping click bait stories and giving preference to interactive and in-depth stories

Facebook and its News Feed changes are never ending. But this time it is for the good of users, publishers and Facebook. Over the last couple of years Facebook has been a dumping ground for clickbait links, hoax articles, scams, etc., making users look beyond Facebook, effecting the user spend time on one of the most popular social networks. Founder Mark Zuckerberg had realized the need for house cleaning and thus began the journey of making the News Feed spam free, thereby hoping to increase the user engagement time on the network.

In a recent announcement Facebook said that its motto is to show users the most relevant stories at the top. “As part of this work, we ask thousands of people to rate their experience every day and tell us how we can improve what they see when they check Facebook — we call this our Feed Quality Program. From these conversations we have learned that the actions people take on Facebook—liking, clicking, commenting or sharing a post—don’t always tell us the whole story of what is most meaningful to them.”

Taking the work forward Facebook has already made the News Feed smarter, from now on Facebook will account the time people choose to spend reading or watching content they clicked on News Feed.

“We are adding another factor to News Feed ranking so that we will now predict how long you spend looking at an article in the Facebook mobile browser or an Instant Article after you have clicked through from News Feed. This update to ranking will take into account how likely you are to click on an article and then spend time reading it. We will not be counting loading time towards this — we will be taking into account time spent reading and watching once the content has fully loaded. We will also be looking at the time spent within a threshold so as not to accidentally treat longer articles preferentially.”

This change only factors in the time people spend reading an article, which will help Facebook to show more likely content to the users.

Cleaning the News Feed

In 2014 Facebook had decided to reduce stories that people frequently report as spammy and that they don’t want to see. “Like-baiting” posts which explicitly ask News Feed readers to like, comment or share the post in order to get additional distribution beyond what the post would normally receive got the big flak.

By June, 2015 Facebook added time spent factor to its News Feed algorithm, after its research showed that people don’t always like or comment on stories that they find meaningful. According to the research done by Facebook, there have been times people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it.

Later in 2015, Facebook decided to rank viral stories lower if enough people indicate that they are not interested in seeing them. However, satirical websites were spared from this update as satirical content intended to be humorous, or content that is clearly labeled as satire.

Earlier this year to make the News Feed meaningful Facebook placed emphasis on human assessments of what constitutes a “good” Facebook post, rather than depending on Like algorithms. Facebook relies on the data it collects from in-Feed user surveys and feedback from its Feed Quality Panel.

All these changes when tied together shape into the larger goal of Facebook to bring about an engaging News Feed. Additionally, Facebook itself is a publisher, so the changes to the News Feed clearly align to its business goals. Publishers can let go their referral traffic when they see that their content is receiving more attention in terms of user spend time.

Facebook has also made some other additional changes in this announcement – “We’ve also heard from people that they enjoy reading articles from a wide range of publishers, and it can be repetitive if too many articles from the same source are back to back in their News Feed.” Going forward Facebook will reduce how often people see several posts in a row from the same source in their News Feed.

Effect on publishers

Facebook claims that publishers won’t see any “significant changes,” adding that at most some will see a small increase or a minor decrease in traffic. However, this isn’t true.

Click bait publishers will be the ones who will get severely affected. These are those publishers who have a tempting social media title to drive a click, and later on when you start reading the article you will find it has no relation with the title. DigiDay writes:

“Publishers that post a lot of quick takes will likely be hurt. Same goes for publishers that pack their pages with low-value videos, additional links and other content that wasn’t relevant to the original article.”

Besides if you are posting too many story updates in a short interval, hoping to increase engagement on your stories then get ready to be restrained by Facebook.

However there is good news for publishers who provide original stories and ones with longer analysis that hold readers’ attention. “We believe in prioritizing editorial quality and audience engagement and loyalty over the pursuit of sheer scale, and I’m glad Facebook has tweaked the algorithm,” Slate editor-in-chief Julia Turner said to DigiDay.

Not just longer analysis, Facebook is going to favour publishers who bring a variety and interactive content on its platform. While video finds no mention in the recent News Feed change but we know how excited Mark is with Live videos. Earlier in March, Facebook announced that it is considering Live videos when ranking feeds. “As a first step, we are making a small update to News Feed so that Facebook Live videos are more likely to appear higher in News Feed when those videos are actually live, compared to after they are no longer live. People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live. This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact.”

Earlier this month BuzzFeed started Facebook Live Video by exploding a watermelon on the Internet. By the time the 44-minute broadcast ended, the video had attracted more than 800,000 concurrent viewers and made “watermelon” a trending topic on both Facebook and Twitter.

Publishers who are creating interesting, in-depth, interactive content are going to get more attention on Facebook News Feed. Click bait and low quality publishers, your time is over on Facebook!