Facebook Using Time You Spend on Content to Determine Interest
How much time would you say you spend reading new posts on Facebook? Are you a quick skimmer who breezes by all your friends’ updates just to get a general sense of what’s going on, or are you the type to really sit down and spend some time reading an update or gazing through a new photo gallery?
You might wonder why it matters. Normally, it wouldn’t; how you spend your minutes (or hours) on Facebook is your business. However, Facebook is going to start using the exact time you spend looking at various types of content as just one more factor in how relevant (or not relevant) that content might be.
“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.,” writes Facebook software engineers Ansha Yu and Sami Tas, in a blog post.
There’s nothing new you’ll notice as part of Facebook’s new interest in how much time you spend viewing posts. It’s not like a little tiny stopwatch or counter is going to appear next to anything you view—fun as that might be. And we presume that this is just going to be one more factor in the great equation that determines just what appears in your News Feed (and where). After all, it would be quite a pain in the butt to look at some cat meme on Facebook, accidentally walk away from your computer for 20 minutes, and suddenly find your News Feed taken over by funny feline pictures.
And, of course, there’s the simple fact that some posts, by their very nature, take longer to get through than others. Lengthy diatribes from your friends that require a “see more” click to get through are inherently going to take more time to view. On the other hand, images you might also be interested in naturally take much, much less time to analyze, interpret, laugh at, and move past. That’s not to say that you prefer monologues over memes; it’s just the nature of the beast.
“We’ve started rolling this out and will continue over the coming weeks. We do not expect Pages to see significant changes in distribution as a result of this update,” reads Yu and Tas’ blog post.