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Jan. 30, 2018, 10:57 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: newsroom.fb.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   January 30, 2018

Whiplash alert: Facebook will give local news sources a signal boost in the News Feed, the company announced Monday afternoon. The change will be reflected in the U.S. first, and Facebook is hoping to roll this out to other countries later this year. These efforts are ostensibly intended to respond to a growing chorus of concern that Facebook is contributing to social malaise, deep societal polarization, and around the world, the destabilization of democratic institutions.

Earlier in the month, Facebook officially announced (confirmed, for many publishers) that it was de-prioritizing posts by pages in the News Feed, dropping the total amount of news globally in an average person’s feed from five percent to four percent. (It’ll use a two-question trust survey to help calibrate.) Facebook also began rolling out a “Today In” feature which spotlights local news and events in six test cities.

Mark Zuckerberg traveled the country last year, and realized that national politics are making us all angry, and if we “instead focus on concrete local issues, then we’d all make more progress together.” All snark aside, this is isn’t a bad development, and Facebook has provided some detail on how it will work:

We identify local publishers as those whose links are clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area. If a story is from a publisher in your area, and you either follow the publisher’s Page or your friend shares a story from that outlet, it might show up higher in News Feed.

There are no constraints on which publishers are eligible, which means large local publishers will benefit, as well as publishers that focus on niche topics like local sports, arts and human-interest stories. That said, small news outlets may benefit from this change more than other outlets, because they tend to have a concentrated readership in one location.

“Localness” depends on a news source’s relation to your geography: “To determine if a domain is local to you, we look at where its readers on Facebook come from. If you live in the same area as the majority of those people, it is considered local to you,” according to Facebook’s Monday announcement.

I’ve also always wondered what Facebook itself considers to be “news” content. It briefly lists a few in its announcement: “We use a variety of signals to identify news sources on Facebook. These could include hard news, sports updates, a neighborhood blog, or other local sources.”

The full announcement on local news prioritization is here.

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