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Heads up for some of the people who’ve figured out how to turn Facebook’s enormous audience into big audiences for their own sites: The social giant says it is going to banish a popular kind of post.

Facebook says it is going to start weeding out “click bait,” which it’s defining as a post with “a headline that encourages people to see more, without telling them much information about what they will see.”

You’ve seen a million of these — they’re so common on the Web that they have their own parodies. Just in case you’re unclear, Facebook illustrates this concept with a (presumably) fake post about a celebrity tiff:

So why has Facebook decided, in 2014, that it doesn’t like this stuff, since Facebook users seem to like it?

The company’s explanation is that Facebook users don’t actually like it — they click on it, which makes it more likely to show up in other users’ feeds, but they feel burned afterward: “When we asked people in an initial survey what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”

So Facebook says it will figure out if a post is “click bait” — instead of “popular” — by measuring how much time users spend reading this stuff when they click on it — the more the better — and how much they share it after they’ve read it — again, the more the better.

Like other pronouncements Facebook has made about its News Feed changes, this one is sure to set off speculation about who Facebook is really trying to target here. Don’t expect much clarity from the company on this one.

But regardless of who wins and loses here, the changes are a good reminder that people who build businesses on Facebook’s giant platform can’t ever breathe easy — what Facebook likes today might change tomorrow.




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