Combating Clickbait

Facebook has now declared a tweak in its News Feed aimed at reducing unwanted spammy content in user feeds. This is great news for readers frustrated by these tales, but bad news for publishers who have earned money by using clickbait to promote their sites.

What exactly is clickbait? The definition of Clickbait varies depending on the individual. Facebook defines it as, when a publisher posts a link with a headline that motivates people to click to see more, without even telling them a lot of details about what they’re going to see. Links based on verbal clues are not going to be demoted.

So how do we determine what the click bait looks like? One way is to look at how long people are spending today studying a Facebook post. If people click on a guide and spend time reading it, it shows that they clicked on something valuable. If they click on a link and return to Facebook after that, it indicates they haven’t found anything they wanted. With this upgrade, Facebook will start to take into account if people are inclined to spend some time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or if they are inclined to return to News Feed when we place tales with links in them.

Another factor Facebook uses to try to show fewer of these kinds of stories is to look at the proportion of individuals who click on the content as opposed to sharing it with individuals and discussing it with friends. If many people click the link, but relatively several people click Like, or comment on that story when returning to Facebook, this also indicates that individuals have not clicked through to something that was valuable to them. Simply put, if people do not read or talk about your content, they may not be able to see it at all on Facebook at all.

Many people today assume sites are attracting huge traffic from social networks such as BuzzFeed, for example by using clickbait, reaching those figures. In reality, however, original content is something individuals are likely to read and share, even in list format, and comment on, suggesting that Facebook is most likely fine with it. Even lower front websites that try to churn out viral headlines can avoid this new News Feed barrier if they can get people to spend a few minutes on site.

As John Herrman points out on Twitter, this does not jive with how clickbait is specified by individuals in the media. Facebook has no editorial duty to promote breaking news or long-form pieces. Their duty would be to meet their users, as they have repeatedly stated.

Those companies seem to feel the best way to determine if users are satisfied is to measure the length of time they spend looking at something on the Web.

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