Facebook Tweaks News Feed To Account For Time Spent On Stories
Company says new ranking factor won't cause significant change in distribution for Pages.
File this Facebook News Feed change into the obvious folder. Facebook announced today that it will start including time spent on stories as a ranking factor for what it shows people visiting the social network.
The News Feed algorithm is famously complicated, but liking, commenting and sharing have always been major factors in determining the mix. Now the company is adding time spent, after its research showed that people don’t always like or comment on stories that they find meaningful.
For instance, serious current events. Or a friend’s photo post about a recent trip. The new ranking signal will take into account how long people spend on those posts, and surface more like them compared to posts that receive less attention.
Facebook software engineers Ansha Yu and Sami Tas explained more in a blog post:
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 ten seconds on a story because they really enjoy it, while others may spend ten 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.
Facebook said the change is starting today and will continue rolling out in the coming weeks.
The company said that it didn’t expect Pages to see “significant changes in distribution” because of the update, but it seems likely that it could favor media organizations that post their content on Facebook rather than posting links to articles or other material on their sites.
No doubt more time is spent on native Facebook video than on links to publisher’s video players and the one of the major selling points of the experiment with Instant Articles is that Facebook provides a better mobile reading experience than publishers can on their own. Such articles are currently only viewable on the iPhone and only a handful have been posted (though the New York Times plans to post 30 a day starting this month), but with wider adoption could significantly skew time spent metrics.