In just another of many rigorous updates to its news feed in recent weeks, Facebook wants to put a lid on headlines which mislead or withhold information in the interest of driving curiosity clicks; AKA ‘clickbait’.
It forms part of Facebook’s strategy to create more meaningful and authentic experiences for its users. In June the network announced the intention to tweak its news feed algorithm to favour posts from friends and family over those from brands.
The site launched a similar initiative in 2014 to weed out content deemed as ‘spammy’ or misleading, but claims that while this helped, it’s still seeing pages that rely on these types of headlines for success.
“We are focusing more effort on this, and are updating News Feed by using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines,” the post reads.
Vetting for clickbait
The update could see Facebook categorising “tens of thousands” of headlines as clickbait by considering two key points; if the headline withholds information required to understand what the content is, and if the headline exaggerates the article to create “misleading expectations”.
Examples cited as clickbait include, “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet…” or “Apples Are Actually Bad For You?!”, both of which withhold information needed to understand the article, or mislead based on contextual-lacking.
The question remaining, however, is what impact will be had on publishers that are shunned off users’ news feeds as a result of Facebook’s vetting process. While companies such as Taboola specialise in driving traffic from these headlines as “recommended content”, there could still be some damage done as a result of less social traffic.
Jeff Moriarty, chief digital and product officer for Johnston Press, which owns a string of local and regional multimedia companies, says the move is “perfectly understandable”.
Moriarty claims the renewed focus on engaging and authentic content is also an attractive one to advertisers, who understand that longer sessions are far more valuable than short “drive-by” visits.
This is a significant aspect in dealings with the company’s ad network 1XL, where data suggests that “not all views are equal” from the advertiser’s perspective.
“We're constantly experimenting with providing the right amount of content on posts themselves, finding the right balance of content published directly onto Facebook that creates both strong advertising viewability, as well as more page likes from our readers.”
“Publishers should welcome this change that level-sets across publishers, and benefits readers and advertisers alike."