Click-bait articles are rife online. Countless websites ply a trade in leading headlines designed to lure readers in, giving as little away as possible as an encouragement to click through. A virtual prick-tease, if you will. Sometimes the click is worth it, but all too often the article, particularly on tabloid-style newspapers, magazine websites and sites peddling listicles, is pointless or misleading. A suggestive question, the promise of sex, inappropriate references to the iPhone 6, the implication of free money… the possibilities for click-bait are virtually endless. It, understandably, annoys a lot of people, and it has annoyed Facebook enough for the social network to take a stand.
Facebook has a new system that it hopes will eliminate click-bait headlines once and for all. Sometimes we all get excited about a topic, and obviously nobody wants to give away the whole story in a headline or a lede, but Facebook wants to make sure that all of those spammy-type headlines are getting filtered from your news feeds. You won’t believe what happens next! “‘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,” Facebook’s research scientist Khalid El-Arini and product specialist Joyce Tang said on Monday. The problem, they argue, is that readers ultimately click into a story that doesn’t have the content advertised and simply leave the page, heading right back to Facebook. That kind of action not only hurts Facebook but also publishers who are putting real content out on the social network. “With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.” It advises publishers to be sure to share links that populate a story’s headline and a bit more information about what’s on the other side of the link, versus a simple picture with text.