Facebook announced Monday that it had adjusted the way users see articles on its site to reduce what it called “click bait” — items that tempt readers with a beguiling headline but don’t deliver much more.
The move, announced on Facebook’s news blog, is the latest development in a battle between the company, which can drive an enormous amount of traffic to news sites, and those sites, which try to use the Facebook algorithm that ranks articles to their advantage.
“Click bait” headlines were once favored by the algorithm, wrote Khalid El-Arini a research scientist at Facebook, and Joyce Tang, a product specialist, simply because people tended to click on the links. But when the company surveyed readers, it found that 80 percent “preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”
Facebook says its algorithm will now consider how long users spend reading an article as a way of judging the importance. The company will also examine how many users discuss or share an article.
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Facebook, which has 829 million daily active users worldwide, has the power to make or break some sites with such seemingly minor changes.
A previous switch in its algorithm dried up traffic to some so-called viral sites, which specialize in lists and in online memes.