Facebook Changes Algorithm to Demote Clickbait Articles

Good for users, bad for publishers.

Facebook continues to do whatever the hell it wants; publishers who depend on the traffic it provides be damned. In the latest twist to its News Feed algorithm, the company said clickbait articles—with headlines that “withhold or distort information”—would be seen less often by users.

We’ve all seen the headlines Facebook is describing: “The One Weird Trick to Make You Love Bread Fungus,” “He Watched Every Episode of 90210. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next” and so on. They were created and popularized by sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed, and now thousands of sites use the same techniques. Facebook is hoping the changes to its algorithm rid your News Feed of these inane articles.

The problem for media outlets is they don’t know exactly what Facebook has deemed “wrong.” If an outlet that depends on Facebook traffic creates headlines that get flagged and demoted, that outlet is suddenly in a lot of trouble.

This is why hooking your media outlet wagon to Facebook is a bad business plan. Facebook execs can detach that connection whenever they want. And there’s nothing you can do about it except crash.