Two years ago, Facebook made an initial effort to eliminate the News Feed's surplus of "clickbait" — a hard to define but almost universally despised form of online content that leaves readers feeling tricked, cheated, or otherwise dissatisfied. But people have continued to complain about many of the articles they see in the News Feed, Facebook says, and so today it's adjusting the feed again. Over the next few weeks, Facebook will implement changes meant to reduce the distribution of headlines that withhold information or attempt to mislead the reader.
Facebook started its latest change to the News Feed by having employees analyze "tens of thousands" of headlines to identify common elements of clickbait stories. It found two main categories of headlines that drive people crazy. The first category includes so-called "curiosity gap" headlines — "You'll never believe who tripped and fell on the red carpet," for example. The second includes headlines that seek to mislead you, such as a headline that says "Apples are actually bad for you" when the articles reports they're only bad for you if you eat several every day.
"There's a lot of spam."
If Facebook's algorithm identifies a headline as clickbait, it will limit both the reach of the post and (potentially) the reach of the publisher that posted it. "If you're a publisher, or you're a content farm, and you post 50 things a day and 48 of them are clickbait, you'll see a significant drop in referral traffic and reach," said Adam Mosseri, vice president of product management for the News Feed, in an interview.
The changes do not mean that publishers must now craft dry, information-dense headlines if they want them to be seen in the News Feed, Mosseri said. They will disproportionately impact the worst offenders in the News Feed while leaving higher quality sites mostly untouched, he said. "There's a lot of spam — it's not on the bubble," he said. "We're not trying to make sure all headlines are the same, or uninteresting. We're trying to respond to feedback from the people who use Facebook every day — they really don't like seeing these headlines that mislead them."