The era of clickbait may be coming to an end. Facebook says it’s taking steps to keep the hyperbolic headlines—about the unbelievable, amazing, overly-sentimental news that will restore your faith in humanity and leave you literally crying—out of your News Feed.
The problem with these kinds of stories is that they work—they tend to draw a lot of clicks and thus appear prominently in users’ News Feeds—but they rarely deliver meaningful content to live up to the headline in the first place, according to a blog post written by Facebook research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang. The social networking giant’s own survey says that 80% of users would prefer to have enough information to decide whether they’d read an article before clicking through.
So to identify and weed out clickbait (and to keep users coming back to the site), Facebook is evaluating News Feed content on two criteria. The first is reading time—if users are all clicking on a link and immediately returning back to Facebook, the story probably didn’t deliver on the promise of its headline. The second metric is engagement—if Facebook users are all clicking on a link without commenting, sharing or liking it, the story probably is low on substance.
The site will also prioritize articles that are shared as links, rather than as photos with with URLS tucked into a caption—a method of sharing that lets users and publications to draw clicks with less information and potentially misleading photos that aren’t actually in the story.
These changes will help Facebook turn its News Feed into a more enriching a experience: a place to catch up on well-reported news stories, expand horizons with insightful op-eds, stalk exes and find out which high school classmate is having a baby.
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