No one likes clickbait, and yet it does incredibly well online. Those headlines that have just enough info to get you to click have now become so popular on social media, The Onion has a whole parody site dedicated to them. But Facebook may kill clickbait with an update to its News Feed algorithm.
The social media giant announced today that it’s changing the News Feed after surveying users on the content they see. The Feed Quality Panel found that it wasn’t just stories that were Liked, shared, commented on and clicked that did well. Some posts were enjoyed without any interactions.
Starting today, Facebook will rate posts based on what people want to see at the top of their News Feed, through a process that isn’t fully clear. It may use how much time a user spends looking at a post, a metric it started tracking last year, or use keywords in things a user post about to determine what’s interesting to that person.
The social network will still take into account Likes, shares, comments and clicks, but will also add in this new factor, showing posts that may not receive any direct interaction but which it hopes will improve Facebook’s environment.
While that news is great for consumers, media sites and other groups that have Facebook Pages may not be so happy with the news.
“This update should not impact reach or referral traffic meaningfully for the majority of Pages,” Facebook software engineers Cheng Zhang and Si Chen said in a blog post. “Pages might see some declines in referral traffic if the rate at which their stories are clicked on does not match how much people report wanting to see those stories near the top of their News Feed.”
Zhang and Chen specifically called out clickbait, saying “Pages should avoid encouraging people to take an action (such as encouraging lots of clicks), because this will likely only cause temporary spikes in metrics that might then be rebalanced by feed’s ranking over time.”
While Facebook may be eliminating one tool companies use to get clicks, the company recently added Audience Optimization tools to let publishers narrowly target posts on Facebook. So while everyone may be seeing less clickbait, users with some niche interests may be seeing a whole different set of posts than their friends.