Facebook is causing hand-wringing yet again in publishing circles. The News Feed will now take into consideration time spent on a story to send you more relevant updates. Yeah, the sky is falling while the Earth is cracking in half…

For once, this is actually Facebook tossing you a bone if you read between the lines.

Oh, and it means the people who comment ‘why did I click on this story’ will get more of the same. Karma.

The concept behind Facebook’s move is to introduce another metric to stories. Sometimes we are not going to ‘like, share or comment’ on breaking news events. It’s an admission by Facebook that virality does not equal importance.

Having hundred of thousands of likes and shares on a cat video does not mean it is more important than say an explanation of the G-7 summit. I know, you’re eyes just glazed over, and you need the cat picture.

“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. Based on this finding, we are updating News Feed’s ranking to factor in a new signal—how much time you spend viewing a story in your News Feed,” said the post.

Two ways of looking at this. One from the reader’s perspective and the other from the publisher’s side.

The average reader is a skimmer. Nothing wrong with it. We are hit with a deluge of news, interesting videos, images and a daily quota of 50 articles on the Kardashians. Lots of content, little time to consume.

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Often, we just hit like on the badass video, image or short articles. Facebook’s tweak to the News Feed will allow the pieces you consume for longer periods of time to float to the top. Think the long-form essays you see in The New Yorker, Grantland and others.

Fantastic work, but little to show for it on the virality side. That could be a UX issue on helping people share the content or any number of variables. Still, you spent some time consuming it, and Facebook wants to measure it.

That leads into the publishers. Every time Facebook changes the News Feed, publishers lose their collective minds. You shouldn’t here. It just stick saved long-form journalism and content. Oh, and if your breaking news pieces aren’t breaking the social counter? Publishers can rely on the new metric.

Are there still issues with making the long-form model work? Absolutely. Publishers have to consistently engage the reader for interactions. There’s a lot to be done on the publishing side to keep the model revenue positive.

Oh, and the tinfoil hat people? The Facebook tweak isn’t going NSA on you. It is nothing but the Google equivalent of a bounce rate. It gives the ‘time on News Feed item’ and ranks future stories accordingly.

The feature rolls out in the next couple of weeks and will undoubtedly create fascinating case studies. If it can keep long-form content around, I’m 100 percent onboard.

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