A view from Felicity Long

Here's why Facebook cracked down on that thing that annoys you

Facebook is cracking down on publishers that serve content that can be considered to be clickbait; headlines which are sensationalised, turn out to be adverts...

The Facebook team has created an algorithm which identifies thousands of phrases commonly used in clickbait headlines and such headlines into two types: those that withhold information required to understand the context of the article and those that exaggerate the article thereby misleading the reader.

As publishers have been increasingly challenged by the emergent digital economy their models have had to change. Producing copy that drives as high a volume of traffic to their sites is one of them.

The creation of models that pay journalists a flat fee for the article and then a fee associated with driving clicks is an expression of this challenge.

Facebook user feedback has shown that users are not happy with this activity and that it leads to a disappointing experience.  

Facebook understands that its users are arguably the most empowered stakeholder in the emergent digital economy.

Users’ experience rightly needs to sit at the heart of everything they do if it is to continue to hold their place in people’s hearts. 

This, coupled with a reduction in people sharing ‘personal’ content on site, helps signal why this is such an important area for Facebook to tackle and improve on behalf of their users.

In theory, the impact will be felt primarily by publishers that don’t have the consumer at the heart of their communication. The change shouldn’t impact those publishers that invest heavily in quality content which sounds like a win-win all round.

Publishers, brands and agencies alike need to take a look at the best practice documents Facebook have produced to ensure they do not fall foul of the changes.

There are three main tenants: focus on informing rather than withholding information, set appropriate expectations within the headline and share links with accurate headlines. All seem fair and reasonable.

Those that don’t comply will see themselves featuring less in people’s newsfeeds, reducing their exposure to Facebook’s audience and decreasing their ability to drive meaningful engagement with those consumers.

Ultimately, Facebook’s move is a positive one and does what we should all be challenging ourselves to do anyway; put the consumer truly at the heart of what we do – deliver value rather than taking it away from consumers, behave responsibly as an industry. It does however bring us back round to the subject of how we ensure that those producing quality content are remunerated effectively for the work they do.