Facebook Changes News Feed Algorithm By Timing Read Articles

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Facebook has made changes to how its News Feed works by taking into account how long a person looks at an article.

The world’s largest social network has tweaked its algorithm to ensure that users receive content they actually want to read and to reduce clutter popping up on News Feeds. The real motivation may be ad revenue, but it’s always pushed as more relevant content.

Beta News reports:

The most recent update to the feed algorithm will take into account not only which news articles people click on, but how long they spend reading them. This will help Facebook to not only determine what sort of article interest users but also help the social network to identify clickbait that doesn’t deliver what it promises.

Apparently students of the bleeding obvious, Facebook says “we’re learning that the time people choose to spend reading or watching content they clicked on from News Feed is an important signal that the story was interesting to them”. With this in mind, the social network will now predict how long it thinks you’ll spend reading a particular article, and use this factor to determine its placement (or not) in your News Feed.

In a blog post about the update algorithm, Facebook says:

This update to ranking will take into account how likely you are to click on an article and then spend time reading it. We will not be counting loading time towards this -- we will be taking into account time spent reading and watching once the content has fully loaded. We will also be looking at the time spent within a threshold so as not to accidentally treat longer articles preferentially.

Facebook points out that it does not matter if an article is an Instant Article viewed on Facebook, or one viewed in a mobile browser, the timing will be monitored and treated in the same way.

The company is also introducing another important change which it says will help to improve the diversity of posts people see:

We've also heard from people that they enjoy reading articles from a wide range of publishers, and it can be repetitive if too many articles from the same source are back to back in their News Feed. We’ll also be making an update to reduce how often people see several posts in a row from the same source in their News Feed.
Edmondo Burr
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