You won’t believe what Facebook is doing to stop ‘click bait’ headlines like this one…

Posted at 5:55 PM, Aug 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-25 17:55:52-04

NEW YORK — In a move that will have repercussions for a wide array of media companies, Facebook is changing its all-important algorithms to discourage what it calls “click-baiting headlines.”

As a result, you’ll probably see fewer stories on the Web that proclaim “You won’t believe what happens in this video!” or promise that “This story will blow your mind.”

These sorts of headlines have proliferated in the past couple of years because Internet publishers have found that they help boost page views and, consequently, revenues from advertising. But critics of the style — and there are a lot of them — say it’s cheap and fundamentally unsatisfying to users.

Facebook apparently agrees.

Facebook says “click-baiting” happens 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.”

There is a whole ecosystem of bottom-feeder Web sites that specialize in these kinds of stories.

Facebook’s algorithm currently rewards these links when they’re posted onto the social networking site because the links “tend to get a lot of clicks.”

But “when we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through,” the Web site said in an announcement on Monday.

So “click-bait” is unsatisfying — and it may also hurt Facebook’s business model, which entails getting people to spend more time on Facebook.

“Over time, stories with “click-bait” headlines can drown out content from friends and pages that people really care about,” making Facebook less useful, the announcement added.

Facebook said it would try to curtail the “click-bait” plague by showing “fewer of these types of stories.”

The site said it would be careful not to ensnare other Internet publishers.

Facebook has become a crucial source of traffic for news and entertainment sites, so every perceived change to Facebook’s algorithm is obsessively scrutinized.

And because Facebook has more than one billion monthly users, its choices and preferences ripple across the whole web.

Another change it announced on Monday will, in some cases, discourage publishers from attaching photos to their promotional posts — so users will probably see somewhat fewer photos and more straight links in the future.