A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the night the Borden family went to a baseball game.
It was an unremarkable event; in fact, the blog wasn’t really about the baseball game.
The blog was about clickbait. I wanted to see if I could come up with an enticing headline just to get people to click on the post, and it seemed to work.
Here was the headline, “The Bordens Go to a Baseball Game; You Won’t Believe What Happened Next”.
If you happened to read the story, or even just the first half, you realized that nothing really happened at the baseball game; it was classic clickbait.
That post generated about 50% more views than my typical post, and it certainly wasn’t because of the content; it was all about the headline.
Well apparently one of the people who read that post was the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
In a blog post yesterday, Facebook states that, “We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.” (side note – I probably would have clicked on all of those headlines if I had seen them in my news feed.)
To address this feedback from our community, we’re making an update to News Feed ranking to further reduce clickbait headlines in the coming weeks. With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.
…we built a system that looks at the set of clickbait headlines to determine what phrases are commonly used in clickbait headlines that are not used in other headlines. This is similar to how many email spam filters work.”
The timing of this announcement seems a little suspicious, coming so close on the heels of my post that used a clickbait headline.
I think Zuckerberg must have come across my headline, was intrigued enough by it to click on it, and then got angry when he realized he’d been tricked. But my blog was upfront about what I was trying to do with clickbait, and I also shared some data on how effective such headlines can be.
Since Zuckerberg wants complete control over what you see in your Facebook news feed, and doesn’t want clickbait headlines outmaneuvering its algorithms, he’s decided to wage war on clickbait.
So I apologize to sites like Gawker, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Upworthy, and BuzzFeed if you see a drop in the number of people who click on your stories.
How was I to know that Mark Zuckerberg actually read my blog, and would decide to make a major change to a Facebook algorithm as a result?