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Facebook ranks articles based on how long you read them

It now checks the time you spend on an article after clicking away.

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Artur Debat via Getty Images

The Instant Articles and other content in your Facebook News Feed aren't picked by magic. The company scrutinizes what kind of stories you want to read based on your clicks, shares or comments, then serves up more of the same. The social network already analyzes how long you spend reading stories while you're still in the app. Now, it will also measure how long you spend on an article after you click away from the News Feed, without counting the load times.

Naturally, Facebook decided to make the changes based on yet more analytics gleaned from its "Feed Quality Program." After surveying thousands of people, the company found out that likes, sharing and comments don't tell the entire story about whether someone wants to see an article. (For those of us who almost never like, click or comment on random articles, that seems pretty obvious.) Specifically, Facebook pointed out that people often don't do anything with "articles about a serious current event, or sad news from a friend."

The goal, the company says, is to "better understand which articles might be interesting to you based on how long you and others read them, so you'll be more likely to see stories you're interested in." At the same time, it will try to avoid being repetitive by reducing how often, and how frequently, you see posts from the same publisher. Overall, this won't affect your News Feed much, as Facebook promises you may see a small increase or decrease in referral traffic. The changes will roll out over the next few weeks.

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