Facebook News Feed Algorithm to Factor In Time Spent on Stories

The latest tweak to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm factors in the amount of time users spend viewing stories.

The latest tweak to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm factors in the amount of time users spend viewing stories.

Software engineers Ansha Yu and Sami Tas announced the change in a Newsroom post Friday, acknowledging that Facebook users don’t necessarily like, comment on or share every post that is important to them.

Yu and Tas added that the change to the News Feed algorithm will roll out “over the coming weeks,” and they did not expect any significant impact on pages.

They explained the motivation behind the change as follows:

We learned that in many cases, just because someone didn’t like, comment or share a story in their News Feed doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful to them. There are times when, for example, people want to see information about a serious current event, but don’t necessarily want to like or comment on it. Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed.

When talking to people about the way they use their News Feed, we’ve found that it’s not as simple as just measuring the number of seconds you spend on each story to understand if that piece of content resonated with you. Some people may spend 10 seconds on a story because they really enjoy it, while others may spend five seconds on a story because they have a slow Internet connection. We’ve discovered that if people spend significantly more time on a particular story in News Feed than the majority of other stories they look at, this is a good sign that content was relevant to them.

For example, you may scroll quickly through your News Feed and like a photo of your friend’s graduation, followed by sharing a funny post from your sister. You keep scrolling and happen upon a post your cousin has shared about her recent trip detailing everything she did and saw. Her post even includes a photo. You spend time reading her post and reading the interesting discussion about the best places to eat in Europe that had broken out in the comments on this post, but you don’t feel inclined to like or comment on it yourself. Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past this post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that more prominently for you in the future.

Readers: What are your initial thoughts on the latest change to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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