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Facebook Wants To Bring People Closer By Boosting Local News

Culture

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Continuing on the mission to facilitate more meaningful connections, Facebook announced that it will prioritize local content in users’ News Feeds.

Your local news crew is following you, or at least their stories are, thanks to a new Facebook initiative that aligns with the company’s 2018 focus on building community.

The news comes just ten days after Facebook said it would be enlisting its users to help score the trustworthiness of content they see in the feed. The same announcement also alluded that so-called “informative” news would be given priority in the coming months.

These decisions are all part of a broader strategy for the News Feed and Facebook overall. As of early 2018, Facebook has declared that it will be prioritizing of content from friends and family, and reducing the organic spread of publisher content that doesn’t facilitate conversations. This vision also applies to several forthcoming Messenger changes that are aimed to simplify and streamline the cluttered app.

Per Facebook, the reason for prioritizing local content is simple: The company wants to make it easier for users to keep tabs on the stories in their immediate communities that have the most impact on them. The decline of local news has been widely reported, with some critics pointing out that national outlets fail to capture the true issues that matter to people at the local level.

“Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in a separate post. “If we could turn down the temperature on the more divisive issues and instead focus on concrete local issues, then we’d all make more progress together.”

In other words, Facebook hopes this decision will not only strengthen its community online, but that the impact will be felt in real-world communities, as well. This, in a nutshell, reflects the essence of Facebook’s revamped mission statement, first announced in June 2017.

So, how will Facebook identify which local content to boost? According to the blog post, stories that are “clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area” will be bumped higher in the News Feed. In addition, content from a particular source or publisher may experience a boost if you follow them, or if one of your friends shares a story from the particular outlet or person.

With respect to publisher implications, Facebook claims both large and small niche publishers will be weighed equally in terms of eligibility for the News Feed, with small outlets having the potential to benefit more greatly given their tendency to have “a more concentrated geographical readership.” This includes those covering “local sports, arts, and human-interest” content.

The new update is kicking off in the U.S. this week, with other countries expected to see rollouts later this year. The company also is revealing its tests of a new dedicated section of its platform to be titled “Today In” currently in the pilot phase in six U.S. cities.

Explore the increasing tensions between community and individualism at SMWNYC this April. We’ll be exploring our global theme, “Closer,” with mainstage sessions from the leading platforms, publishers and brands. Claim your pass today.




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