Facebook Says It Will ‘Prioritize’ Local News and Content in the Feed

Recently Facebook announced that less “public content,” from “businesses, brands and media,” would be appearing in the News Feed. This caused considerable speculation and hand-wringing among marketers, publishers and brands, proclaiming organic reach on the site is all but dead.

However yesterday the company said that it would prioritize local news:

This month, we’ve announced changes to prioritize posts from friends and high-quality news sources. Today, we’re updating News Feed to also prioritize local news so that you can see topics that have a direct impact on you and your community and discover what’s happening in your local area.

Facebook uses signals to identify who is a “local” publisher: “those whose links are clicked on by readers in a tight geographic area.” Facebook impliedly sees local news content as being more relevant and of higher quality than non-local content. This is also potentially another defense against “fake news” and offshore content manipulation.

The local news priority will apply equally to large and small publishers alike; however, as a practical matter, Facebook sees small publishers as benefitting more:

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.

The company added that it’s also creating “a dedicated section on Facebook that connects people to news and information in their community, called Today In” in six cities in the US.

This is an interesting and somewhat surprising move by Facebook and reflects the growing recognition among large internet brands about importance of local information and content. The Facebook Local app is event heavy but could also benefit from local news.

Along the same lines Google is testing a new app designed to help generate content and “stories” from ordinary people at the local level, called Bulletin.

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