Facebook cracks down on the click-baiters

Facebook cracks down on the click-baiters

It’s called click-baiting, whereby fantastically humorous quizzes await those who link through and then (usually) share the results with friends on Facebook.

In this case, ‘Canvey Island (oh dear)’ said my friend Gavin. Hilarious!

We used to do it at The Times, suggesting vicarious thrills were just the press of a button away. Or by compiling yet another 20 best of… slideshow and forcing bored browsers to click through each slide to find out What Is Number One.

I notice the Daily Telegraph still does it online. Oh dear.

But you won’t be seeing so many of these type of quizzes on Facebook because this week, Facebook changed its own algorithm rules again to make it more difficult for them to show in news feeds.

“Over time, stories with ‘click-bait’ headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about,” wrote FB research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang.

Click-bait, says Facebook, is defined 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.

So they will now measure how long people spend outside of Facebook when clicking on a link, and whether people then like or share what they have seen. “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,” they wrote.

“If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.”

The formula of how content is ranked by Facebook is constantly being tinkered with as the volume grows larger. In a post  the change would improve newsfeed quality. “Facebook’s news feed algorithms have historically rewarded stories that get clicks and likes, regardless of whether those stories are actually any good. Sites that don’t attempt to game those algorithms risk irrelevance or extinction at the hands of those that do. So if any single entity has the power to tilt the incentives back in the direction of headlines that actually tell readers what a story is about, it’s Facebook.”

So while FB encourages ad spending, this tweak is seen positively as helping improve the quality of content. But as I’ve observed on my own newsfeed, while I constantly see posts from my noisiest chatterbox friends taking photos, I often wonder about the 1,200 items I don’t see in a day. The quiet friend posting just one or two thoughtful posts, perhaps.

But how do you tweak an algorithm for them?

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Steve Keenan has been a travel journalist for 25 years. He started at a Reed paper, news editing at Travel News in London - now Travel Weekly - having spent a decade reporting general news in the UK and abroad. He also taught English in Peru, delivered cars in the USA, ran the Sydney desk at AAP and took the train home from Hong Kong. He left Travel News in 1990 to freelance for several publications, including The Times of London, which he later joined as deputy travel editor. In December 2004, he became the first national digital travel editor in the UK, running the combined travel website of The Times and Sunday Times. The introduction of a paywall at the papers in 2010 persuaded him that the connected world might continue outside of Wapping and he left to co-found Travel Perspective. The company runs the social media seminars at World Travel Market London, and works with Reed Expos and others in helping the travel and tourism industry best communicate stories in all forms of publishing.

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