Facebook could be the ultimate social media party pooper. Earlier this month it shut the gates on ‘Likes’ and this week it's clamping down on funky, attention grabbing headlines, which fall under what Facebook describes as clickbait.
Flying in the face of about a gazillion years of best journalism practice, Facebook has decided that it will be cracking down on headlines that attract reader attention if Facebook believes the headline doesn’t truly reflect the content of the story.
Catching the Clickbaiters
There is undoubtedly some merit in trying to crack down on clickbait, but how Facebook will decide what headlines are clickbait and what are not seems a little bit random.
According to the blog post by Khalid El-Arini, Facebook research scientist and Joyce Tang, Facebook product Specials, the status of clickbait will be judged by the length of time people spend reading an article.
They wrote, "One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. 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. 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 when we rank stories with links in them.”
“Clickbaiting” occurs 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.
The problem is that over time, stories with these kind of headlines can drown out content that is useful, or content that comes from friends and places that Facebook users really want to see.
Facebook and Clickbait
The move by Facebook was prompted by a survey the company carried out among its readers to find out what exactly people wanted to see in their feeds.
The enhancements, Facebook says, aim to provide users with posts and links from publishers that are most interesting and relevant, and to “continue to weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy.”