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“Click bait” Headlines to be Filtered with New Facebook Algorithm

According to an article published to Facebook’s Newsroom blog, “click bait” headlines will diminish in your newsfeed due to a new algorithm rollout that will filter such headlines. For those of us who aren’t impervious to clicking on articles we never wanted to read in the first place, this new Facebook algorithm is great news.

We’ve all fallen victim to “click bait” headlines. I once read an entire Buzzfeed article about how the faces of the Kardashians have changed since first appearing on TV before realizing the inanity of my choice in reading material.

As defined on Facebook’s blog, 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.”

The problem with these headlines is that they don’t really give consumers information they want. Many click on the links only to return to Facebook within seconds, clearly unsatisfied with what they just read. But for many “news” organizations (e.g. Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and sometimes even CNN), these click bait headlines are the bread and butter of content and traffic. Side note: do check out the Twitter handle @savedyouaclick for a few click bait-related laughs.

When we see a headline like: “The Ten Items in Your Refrigerator that Will Change Your Mind About the Holocaust,” our index finger “clicks” before our higher intellect has a chance to chime in. In turn, Facebook picks up on the popularity of the article and spreads it around like chlamydia during Spring Break.

Why does Facebook care about spammy and, frankly, predatory headlines? Despite Facebook existing for the sole purpose of draining our brains of any lasting intellect, Facebook wants to keep you around. And that means they have to be better about providing content that is interesting to you so that you will ultimately fall victim to its various marketing/data mining efforts continue to frequent its illustrious url.

How will they do it? For one, the new algorithm will take into account which articles are simply getting clicks and which ones are actually getting engagement via shares and comments.  Secondly, they will favor posts in link format, meaning that an embedded link will ideally give the reader a better sense of what they are clicking on, thanks to a few preview sentences and a little more information. This, compared to simply a photo, some vaguely compelling words, and a link.

This is probably the most consumer-friendly update Facebook has made in a long time because, at the end of the day, what’s good for the consumer (or at least “what the consumer cares about”) is good for business.

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