Facebook moves to rid its feed of click bait

Links with bold headlines that don't provide much value may appear less frequently in people's feeds

Facebook will reduce "click-bait" posts of outside links that try to lure users with eye-catching headlines.

Headlines such as "You'll never believe why ..." or "This is the craziest thing ever," are common on the Internet. Publishers, including marketers, post the links on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, hoping to drive traffic to their own sites with the bold headlines.

Facebook said Monday that it would "weed out" such posts after gathering feedback from users who prefer headlines that give them more information up front.

The goal is to provide a better canvas for things people actually want to see. "Over time, stories with 'click-bait' headlines can drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about," the company said.

Facebook will use a couple of methods to identify click bait. For one, the site will look at how much time people spend away from Facebook after clicking on a link. If they come straight back to Facebook, that suggests they didn't find what they wanted, the company said.

The company will also look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it. If people don't engage with the link like they do with other posts, that suggests that it was not valuable, Facebook said.

Facebook may run the risk of devaluing content that is not actually click bait. Many small companies use Facebook to promote their businesses with Facebook's free "Pages," and sometimes they insert links into their posts.

But Facebook continually tweaks its news-feed algorithm, and cutting back on spam is a regular goal. Late last year the company retooled its ranking system to promote "high-quality" content, which was similarly aimed at highlighting news articles that generate more interaction.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Florida, said that clearing away clutter is a worthwhile goal. "Facebook does have a current focus on improving its 'news product,' even if that's an RSS-style feed rather than an original content and 'curated' aggregation site," he said.

Facebook did not say whether it would devalue click-bait posts from publishers or others who pay Facebook for advertising.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Tags advertisingInternet-based applications and servicessocial networkinginternetsocial mediaFacebook

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