Facebook is Now Taking Into Account Time Spent on Stories

June 12th, 2015 by Alexandra

Facebook announced today that it’s updating its News Feed ranking in an effort to show users more of the content that matters to them. The social network will now be factoring in how much time a user spends viewing a story in his or her News Feed.

How is this different from what they’ve done in the past?
Traditionally, Facebook has relied on people’s actions—liking, commenting or sharing a post—to determine what should appear at the top of a user’s News Feed. However, after surveying a number of people about how they use their News Feed, researchers concluded that these factors don’t always indicate whether the content was meaningful to a person.

They found, in many cases, that a user may have chosen not to like or comment on a story, but he or she still found the story to be important or interesting.

“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.

Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past [a] post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.”

Why is this a big deal for publishers?
These new updates, along with the News Feed algorithm changes Facebook made last August to combat clickbait, show they’re taking important steps toward surfacing quality content that captures and holds readers’ attention. And as the social network continues to lean on the fundamental ideas of the Attention Web, quality content stands to win big.

Naturally, we’re pretty excited about these changes. For the better part of a decade, Chartbeat has been talking about getting the industry to align the quality of content with the value of a page, instead of with empty clicks and impressions. We’ve been building products around Engaged Time (methodology here for the curious) on written and video content and around Active Exposure Time and Lifetime Exposure with display ads to make it easier for content creators and advertisers to do so.

The more we work together as an industry — publishers, advertisers, platforms, and other tech companies — to reward the best content on the internet, the better the internet as a whole becomes. We’re looking forward to seeing how other major media players follow in Facebook’s footsteps.

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