- Facebook announced on Thursday that it will start using time spent reading or viewing content on third-party pages as a factor in its news feed ranking algorithm.
- The length of the content in question will be considered, so that shorter articles don't necessarily get demoted, for instance.
- The social network also said that in response to user feedback and in an effort to boost content diversity in news feeds, it was going to make changes to how often users see content from the same source in their feeds.
Facebook has made tweaks to its news feed algorithm in the past that have both spooked and benefited brands and publishers. In this case, it's not yet clear how the changes will impact brands and publishers.
The reason behind the move is clear: When users spend more time on Facebook and get more value out of it, the more money it makes. The social network has long considered time spent when it comes to rankings, but what's new here is that it is now extending that factor to third-party links in users' feeds.
"With this change, we can better understand which articles might be interesting to you based on how long you and others read them, so you’ll be more likely to see stories you’re interested in reading," according to a Facebook blog post about the change.
For Facebook Pages, Facebook said they anticipate "most won't see significant changes." Some might see a bump in referral traffic, while others might see a decrease in referrals. Facebook said at this point it isn't taking into consideration how fast or slow a piece of content loads, rather only counting time spent once it's fully loaded.
Publishers are already wary of the algorithm, with some even reporting a drop in Facebook traffic, according to a Digiday report from earlier this month.
What publishers and marketers can takeaway from this update is that Facebook is serious about the user experience: It's been using user surveys for feedback to determine which stories are displayed in users feeds. Moving beyond likes, clicks and shares, Facebook is focusing on engagement as a key metric.