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Facebook ranking change will support a push into news

Facebook ranking change will support a push into news

Time spent on content is now a factor in how Facebook arranges people's News Feeds

Facebook's News Feed.

Facebook's News Feed.

If you pore over news articles in your Facebook News Feed, expect to see more of them going forward.

The company is making a change to its News Feed ranking, to factor in the time users spend viewing content. It's a new for Facebook's News feed algorithm, which historically has ranked and shown content to users based largely on people's actions including likes, comments and shares.

Under the change, if you spend more time viewing one type of content versus another, even if you don't "like" it or comment on it, more content similar to it should appear higher up in your News Feed.

The change is not aimed specifically at news content. But it comes as Facebook pushes deeper into news distribution, including a new program that publishes interactive news articles from select publishers inside News Feed.

The New York Times, Buzzfeed, National Geographic and others are participating in the program, which places highly visual articles with interactive maps and videos in people's News Feeds, starting in Facebook's iPhone app.

The content is designed to suck people in. If it does, the algorithm change should help Facebook increase the prominence of those articles in News Feed for people who spend more time viewing them, and help Facebook expand the program.

News distribution is a growing area of interest for Facebook. As the world's largest social network, Facebook wants to broaden its usefulness by giving its users news in addition to connecting them.

In 2013, Facebook changed its News Feed ranking to prioritize "high quality" articles about current events and shared interests, at the expense of other content like Internet memes.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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