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Facebook has tweaked its algorithms which show what stories pop up on people’s news feeds and now factors in the amount of time people spend on a particular news story.  “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,” Facebook explained on its blog.

The social networking company also said that the new changes also factor in slow internet connections for time spent on a news story and the system will compare how long users look at a particular story versus your general browsing habits. The company says that this can better identify which posts are actually relevant to users.

The feature is currently rolling out and will continue to do so over the next few weeks.

Lighthouse Insights points out that the move will make publishers more happy with the move as it could mean that a user spending more time on say The New York Times rather than a listicle on BuzzFeed could see more stories from The New York Times despite the fact the Buzzfeed story has got more likes and is more widely shared.

Instant Articles

It will be interesting how the changes in the algorithm will play in with its Instant Articles feature where certain publishers’ stories will be displayed inside the mobile app. It’s worth noting that Facebook had reduced the reach of news updates significantly with the intent of trying to get publishers to pay for better reach. Perhaps it is trying to make amends with the new algorithm changes as it seems that Instant Articles hasn’t really gone down well with publishers as indicated by this Business Insider report. As on June 7, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, National Geographic, NBC, and The New York Times have shared Instant Articles stories (one each) so far, but The Guardian, BBC, Spiegel Online, and Bild have not.

Facebook’s recent moves

– Facebook is beta testing a buy button for DIY ecommerce platform Shopify. The company on its website said that it is working with a group of US-based merchants which will allow consumers to purchase products they discover in their News Feed or on Pages without having to leave Facebook.

– Facebook is reportedly offering free ad credits to and making exclusive deals with video creators, actors and artists in India. With free ad credits, Facebook is asking content creators to make their content exclusive to Facebook for 48-72 hours before the content is uploaded to other video platforms like YouTube.

– Facebook has also added a video calling feature in its Messenger app. The feature is currently limited to iOS and Android users in the US, UK, Mexico, Oman, Laos, Uruguay and some other European countries. Facebook mentions it will roll out the feature to other locations over the coming months. The option to video call will be available to users from within chats, on the top right corner of the screen. Users can also place video calls cross platform, i.e call iOS users from Android and vice-versa.

Image Credit: Flickr user Mkhmarketing