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These headlines, and many like them, have their days numbered. At least on your Facebook News Feed.
The social network announced today that they're changing their algorithm (the calculation that decides what will show up on your feed) so that less click-bait articles will be displayed. This is the next step in Facebook's masterplan of transforming your News Feed into a news center, something more on the lines of Twitter—meaning, more newsworthy updates on current events, and less updates about your high school friend's new baby. While they've taken care of things on that end, the company is going after "news" sites that rely on click-bait headlines to get users to visit their site. Take UpWorthy, for instance. As Facebook defines it:
“Click-baiting” is 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.
Click-bait articles can clog up your feed and take the place of articles you might actually want to read. "When we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through," their report stated. For one, the company will analyze how many people are clicking on a link and not sharing or liking it. They'll also be calculating the time between someone clicking on a link and then coming back to Facebook. If they click and return to Facebook shortly after, they probably didn't see anything of value on the other side.
The algorithm changes will also consider how a publication shares a link. If they share a link with a Facebook generated thumbnail (which pops up when you plug a URL into a status update), it'll be given preference over links that are shared with a link manually placed in the text, as shown in the picture below:
And what will be given preference:
Facebook, for their part, couldn't care less how this effects click-bait websites: "A small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after they click through may see their distribution decrease in the next few months."
It's well-documented that traditional media outlets and new ones alike are struggling to figure out how to monetize content and attract readers. It's easy to make fun of UpWorthy and BuzzFeed, who rely heavily on click-bait, but traditional companies have also done their fair share of experimentation with bait headlines. CNN, for one, did it with "14-Year-Old Girl Stabbed Her Little Sister 40 Times, Police Say. The Reason Why Will Shock You" in a tweet earlier this year. All of this experimentation has been in response to social media and the rise of the casual (and lazy) language of the Internet. Yet, for as much as publications have adapted, the keys to the Kingdom go through Facebook and Twitter, so when one of the social networks decides to make a change as Facebook is doing, all of their adjustments may have been for nothing.