Facebook is working to make the world a better place, one clickbait headline at a time.
The social media giant, which people are increasingly turning to for news, has made an update to its News Feed that discourages so-called clickbait headlines, which are sensationalized and intended to compel the user to click through.
According to a post from Facebook research scientist Alex Peysakhovich and user experience researcher Kristin Hendrix, Facebook users prefer authentic and genuine stories. Thus, they had a team of employees review thousands of headlines to identify the articles that should be “downgraded” (meaning not shown prominently) in user feeds. The result? Media outlets hungry for clicks might be in for a surprise.
Headlines such as Cosmopolitan’s “Someone Called Donald Trump a ‘Dick’ on CNN, But the Person Who Said It Is the Biggest Surprise” and Buzzfeed’s “Here’s Why People Started Questioning Melania Trump’s Immigration Story” don’t make the cut.
Facebook researchers identified two key traits in the battle against clickbait. First, if the headline withholds information required to understand the content of the article, and two, if the headline exaggerates and creates misleading expectations. They also pinpointed key words and certain media outlets that are consistent with offending behavior.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix, although they won’t solve the problem of encouraging readers to click through to the article: According to Facebook, if a page stops posting clickbait headlines, posts will no longer be subject to this change.
Admittedly, this might make it less likely that readers will click on stories.
This has been a shared concern in relation to Facebook’s Instant Articles feature. The feature allows publishers to post content directly to Facebook, rather than linking out to a publisher’s own site, which decreases the lag time when a site loads on a mobile device. But that translates into lost visitors for publishers who use high numbers to attract advertisers.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg addressed this concern in last week’s call with investors, and said that Facebook was looking into way to share revenue with publishers.
“I think one of the big things that we need to do is see if we can not only make this good for engagement for our partners, but a really positive business driver for them, too,” Zuckerberg said. “That’s something that I’m excited about, and we’ll hopefully have more news on that coming up.”
Although Facebook might be discouraging clicks on publisher content — clickbaiters or otherwise — it does endorse clicking through on its advertisers’ posts. And according to a recent report from L2, Facebook users don’t seem to mind that as much as they mind clickbait. In fact, Facebook users don’t dislike ads at all.
After analyzing nearly 20,000 Facebooks posts from specialty retail brands, L2 found that emotions on Facebook’s promoted posts, which are posts that a brand pays to be shown to more users, mirror the relatively positive sentiments from “organic” posts. Additionally, researchers found that promoted posts have an impact that is 11-times greater than organic posts, with the “sweet spot” being between eight and 10 promoted posts from a brand in one month.
Oh, and that was former Republican party communications staffer Liz Mair (referred to by Cosmopolitan) and the Buzzfeed headlined teased a discrepancy in the dates and the type of visa that Melania Trump had, and whether it would allow her to work.