02 PM | 28 Aug

Facebook’s new click bait rule will totally blow you away

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Update at 3:00 p.m. PT: Updated with a mention of Facebook’s ad targeting that pulls in people’s browsing history outside of Facebook.

Uh-oh, it’s a bad Monday for Upworthy and other so-called viral sites. Facebook today announced that it’s doubling down on articles with headlines that scream for your clicks.

As of today, the world’s biggest online social network is introducing two updates aimed at helping clean up News Feeds: cracking down on click-bait headlines and encouraging the sharing of articles as links instead of as photo captions.

Let’s break this down.

On the “click bait” front, Facebook defines those as “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.” Facebook says that based on its survey, while links with these headlines get a lot of clicks, 80 percent of its users say they prefer more informative headlines. These posts also tend to crowd people’s News Feeds and drown out other content.

Where it gets really interesting, and possibly a little creepy, is how Facebook determines what links fall into this category. It will look at the “ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends,” operating under the idea that low engagement (“likes,” comments, shares) relative to the click signals click bait.

But Facebook will also look at the amount of time spent away from Facebook while you’re presumably “reading” an article. The idea here is that if you click on an article and are taken to that webpage (i.e. navigating out of Facebook), and spend very little time there before coming back, you didn’t find anything of substance there — this is likely click bait. Essentially, Facebook will now look at your bounce rate from these stories.

To read more, click here.