Facebook starts to rank content based on eyeball time
Facebook has said that it will start ranking News Feed content based on the time people spend looking at it.
News Feed is Facebook’s flagship feature. Close to one billion people worldwide use it to see what their friends have been up to, follow brands they like and post their own updates.
Previously, content that attracts lots of likes or comments has tended to appear more prominently on a News Feeds.
But Facebook is keen to take into account the fact that users sometimes enjoy an update – spending a lot of time watching, reading or looking at it – without necessarily liking or commenting themselves.[pullQuote position=”right”]Facebook was only founded just over a decade ago but is now worth more than Unilever, Visa and McDonald’s.
It had 936 million daily active users in March, according to its website.[/pullQuote]
Following research into how users interact with posts on their News Feeds, Facebook has come up with this algorithm adjustment.
The company said the change would be more sophisticated than simply counting the seconds spent on each update to account for external factors, such as slow internet connections.
“We’ve discovered that if people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the change.
No help for content marketers
Content marketers might hope that this change will mean branded content that really captures the attention of users will get a ranking boost. Gaining organic traction on Facebook is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more real estate is taken up with ads and promoted posts.
But this latest algorithm tweak will unfortunately do little to help with that.
“We do not expect Pages to see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update,” Facebook said in the same blog post.
Facebook continues to reward quality content
The decision to reward posts that users spend more time on follows other recent changes by Facebook designed to favour quality content.[pullQuote position=”right”]Facebook made $3.34 billion from ads in the first three months of 2015. Quarterly revenue at The New York Times is around USD $500 million.[/pullQuote]
Last month, the social media site unveiled Instant Articles, a partnership with a group of newspapers that will see Facebook publish exclusive, third party content to its users.
Instant Articles will see stories from major global brands such as The New York Times, National Geographic and The Guardian published in full on Facebook.
In exchange for providing exclusive, newsroom-grade content, the newspaper brands get help selling ads – something Facebook is pretty good at, especially when it comes to the ever-growing mobile market.