Clickbaiting. The nefarious art of crafting a headline on a web page that teases the content of the article, providing titillation but no real information as to what the viewer is going to see post-click. Where would The Huffington Post be without clickbait headlines?
Clickbait most often presents itself in the form of an open-ended question, such as "Could Jimmy Hoffa still be alive?" or "Did James Franco marry a duck?" Otherwise, readers would be confronted with dreck meant to appeal to the gossip-mongering lobe in the human brain, with headlines such as "You won't believe what Miley Cyrus didn't wear to the VMAs last night," or "More Kardashians found on Mars."
We all must be warriors in the battle to fight clickbaiters, and Facebook is taking its own stand against the practice.
The company announced on a blog post it is taking new steps to "weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don't want to see."
"We're making two updates, the first to reduce clickbaiting headlines, and the second to help people see links shared on Facebook in the best format," wrote Khalid El-Arini, Facebook research specialist, and Joyce Tang, Facebook product specialist.
Facebook user surveys reveal 80 percent of subscribers preferred headlines that provided enough information to decide if they wanted to read the full article before clicking through. Clickbaiting headline writers know, though, that clickbait headlines generate a higher percentage of click-throughs than more informative headlines. Thus, clickbaiters have no incentive to mend their evil clickbaiting ways.
Facebook can usually determine if a headline qualifies as clickbait by measuring the amount of time spent away from Facebook after clicking on a link. Most users will click on clickbait, immediately realize they've been had, and will click back to Facebook. These measurements will help Facebook demote clickbait links and promote credible links in their place.
Facebook will also separate the clickbait chaff from the valued-content wheat by noting the ratio of people clicking on the clickbait link compared with discussions about the link and shares attributed to the link. If the link indicates a high number of click-throughs but generates little or no discussion or shares, it's probably clickbait.
The results are an improved viewing experience for users, as Facebook tries to ensure that clickbait content does not overwhelm content that viewers really want to see.