Facebook News Feed Algorithm to Factor in Time Spent on Posts

The latest tweak to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm factors in predictions of how long users will spend on articles (or Instant Articles) after clicking on them.

The latest tweak to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm factors in predictions of how long users will spend on articles (or Instant Articles) after clicking on them.

Software engineer Moshe Blank and research scientist Jie Xu also said in a Newsroom post that the social network will attempt to reduce the number of consecutive posts from the same sources in users’ News Feeds.

Blank and Xu said the algorithm change has begun rolling out “and will continue over the coming weeks,” adding that while some pages may see small increases in referral traffic and some may see minor decreases, they anticipated no significant changes for most pages.

They wrote:

We’re learning that the time people choose to spend reading or watching content they clicked on from News Feed is an important signal that the story was interesting to them. We are adding another factor to News Feed ranking so that we will now predict how long you spend looking at an article in the Facebook mobile browser or an Instant Article after you have clicked through from News Feed. This update to ranking will take into account how likely you are to click on an article and then spend time reading it. We will not be counting loading time towards this—we will be taking into account time spent reading and watching once the content has fully loaded. We will also be looking at the time spent within a threshold so as not to accidentally treat longer articles preferentially.

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. This change only factors in the time people spend reading an article regardless of whether that time is spent reading an Instant Article or an article in the mobile web browser.

We’ve also heard from people that they enjoy reading articles from a wide range of publishers, and it can be repetitive if too many articles from the same source are back-to-back in their News Feed. We’ll also be making an update to reduce how often people see several posts in a row from the same source in their News Feed.

Readers: What do you think of the latest change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?


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david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.