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Read This Now: Two Reasons Why Facebook Wants to Fix Obnoxious Headlines

Posted on Aug 25, 2014

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Through the perverse economics of Internet journalism, Facebook has become essential to the revenue of virtually every publication, including this one. So the social network’s promise to cut down on spammy, deceptive posts has many sites atwitter:

“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.

However, 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.

The company says it will monitor users’ behavior in order to evaluate the value of the content they click away to. So if you leave and come right back, Facebook will deduce that you were duped by a shifty headline, and populate fewer news feeds with that particular story.

A lot of news organizations, such as Mother Jones, have managed to leverage the awesome power of Facebook and social sharing to get greater exposure for important stories. And then there are more opportunistic and perhaps manipulative outlets.

Facebook is probably right to try to weed out deceptive headlines that don’t inform readers so much as lure them. But the company has an ulterior motive.

The chances of a particular news story showing up in your feed are a lot higher if the media company or advertiser involved pays Facebook to “boost” the post. The fewer spammy, ad-oriented headlines that clutter up users’ news feeds, the better for Facebook’s actual spammy, ad-oriented content.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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