Facebook announced Wednesday that it was testing a way to drive local engagement with relevant news and information in more than 100 U.S. cities.
“Today In” aggregates articles from local publishers, as well as what it calls “less-formal” sources of information such as local page posts, events, current discussions, school announcements and interest groups. Users can opt into a digest that appears in their news feeds, or access the section through the app’s main menu.
Facebook’s research showed that though plenty of local content existed on the site, users weren’t easily connecting with it. They were seeing local news more in their News Feeds due to ranking changes, but the company says “by building both a dedicated space in the app as well as presenting the option to get a collection of local updates in News Feed itself, the team helped solve the twin problems of discoverability and predictability — that is, how to help people find local news, as well as get it on a regular basis.”
Why you should care
Facebook says that engagement with both the standalone section and the digest has been high so far. That could mean good news for local publishers, and the geo-targeting marketers that advertise with them.
The project just recently expanded its test from a “couple of dozen” cities to more than 100. As it continues to refine this feature, it expects to test alerts from first responders like police departments, fire departments, and city and county governments, to convey urgent information in time-sensitive situations.
The company sees its local efforts as a way to reach local users for a long time to come.
Facebook’s manager on the project Anthea Watson Strong said, “Long term, I want it to be a place where people can participate in high-quality public discussions about the issues affecting their neighborhoods.”
More about the news
- The local content is drawn in from all over Facebook. The “In the News” section pulls news from local publishers using the same back-end technology that helps prioritize local news in News Feed.
- Other relevant pages are chosen using an algorithm looking for “local affinity,” which is measured by the number of Page fans that are located near the organization.
- According to the company, all content shown in the “Today In” section gets passed through Facebook’s integrity filters, which helps weed out content that is spammy, contains hate speech, or displays other misleading or inauthentic content.
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