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Facebook Announces News Feed Changes To Discourage Click-Baiting

August 26, 2014
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Social media users: if you’re tired of clicking on sensationalistic-sounding news headlines only to be disappointed by the content (or lack thereof) in the actual article, you should be pleased with changes to the News Feed announced by Facebook officials on Monday.

In an online post, research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang explained that the website is looking to cut down on the practice of click-baiting, which they describe as “when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.”

“Posts like these tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed,” they added. “However, when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80 percent of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”

This kind of bait-and-switch style headline has become increasingly popular in recent years as online media companies have found that they can attract more users, thus increasing advertising revenue, explained CNN Money’s Brian Stelter. Critics complain that this practice tends to leave web surfers unsatisfied, he added, and Facebook apparently agrees with those individuals.

According to Chloe Albanesius of PC Magazine, Facebook plans to use a two-pronged approach to determine whether or not an article is guilty of click-baiting. To begin with, it will gauge how long people stay on the stories that they clicked on through the news feed, and then it will take into account how many clicks an article gets in comparison to the number of likes and/or comments it receives.

“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,” El-Arini and Tang explained. “With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed.”

“Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends,” they added. “If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.”

Mashable business reporter Jason Abbruzzese said that the use of the “time spent on page” metric that the website plans to start employing has become increasingly popular on the Internet. He also speculates that digital media companies will be the most affected by the new policies, as Facebook has become an increasingly influential publishing platform and has been responsible for driving large amounts of traffic to websites with a strong presence on the social media website.

In addition, Facebook also announced changes to the way in which shared links appear in a person’s News Feed. Moving forward, the social network said that it will prioritize shared websites in what they call the link-format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post and includes a large picture, a headline and some text offering some context on the link’s content) over those shared in text captions above photos or in status updates.

The inclusion of additional information about the article provided in the link-format “makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through,” said El-Arini and Tang. The Facebook representatives added that this display method “makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen.”

“The best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format,” they said. “In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video.”

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Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online



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