Facebook Targets Clickbait, But Brands and Ad-Tech Firms Should Pay Attention

Facebook is changing its News Feed algorithm to reward those who create content that users spend more time reading. More time spent on Facebook is a win for Facebook of course, and it’s also a win for fans of long-form journalism and other absorbing material.

Time spent also will create another useful signal in the Facebook algorithm to avoid that clickbait-driven content that can leave readers feeling robbed of their time and attention.

But this algorithm change is also a big signal to advertisers and ad-tech firms, who have a crucial role in creating the reader’s overall experience of any site. It speaks to the need to make sure advertising experiences surrounding those articles are of high quality, load fast and engage readers also.

Ads can comprise half or more of the load time of a page (especially if done badly). Indeed, one of the fights these days between publishers, advertisers and ad-tech firms is over “skinny” ads and similar approaches that improve the reader experience.

And it’s not just speed (though that’s important, and absolutely crucial on mobile). Done right, a highly targeted and effectively built ad gets the right message in the right format to the right recipient.

Done wrong, even an absorbing article suffers in the eyes of readers when it’s larded up with far too many distracting ads, widgets and visual roadblocks. Eventually, readers will turn off. So it’s important to find a balance between ad offerings and content that keeps a reader engrossed. And yes, it’s difficult to find that balance when everyone’s just trying to get paid, and survive to publish another day.

But publishers and brands (and absolutely the ad-tech firms that work with each side) must understand how tightly bound together they are. They jointly bear responsibility for ensuring the best possible experience for a reader, whether it’s on their own site or on a platform such as Facebook that can directly penalize companies that ignore the new rules of the road.

At Beachfront, I’ve committed us to making sure our tools reduce load times and provide the most efficient and enjoyable experience for users, whether it’s through our sell-side or buy-side platforms, our video player, or our other offerings.

The reality is we’re all in this together. Facebook’s latest move, rewarding the creators of the best reader experiences with more visibility and likely many more readers, is just another big reminder of that reality.