Facebook will begin prioritizing the placement of local news in the News Feed, the company said today. The move means that you’re more likely to see stories from your local newspaper or television station. While the changes are currently limited to the United States, Facebook plans to introduce them globally.
Facebook said it considers publishers “local” if their links tend to be clicked on “by readers in a tight geographic area.” “People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. “Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives.”
The move is the latest in a series of significant changes to the News Feed introduced since the beginning of the year. On Jan. 11th, the company said it would begin prioritizing posts shared by friends and family over those shared by publishers. The following week, Facebook said it would begin taking into account how trusted a news source is when determining its ranking.
By promoting local news stories, Facebook could benefit regional publishers, who have historically struggled to reach audiences in the News Feed. It could also help reduce the spread of hoaxes and misinformation on pages that are designed to mimic local news sources. In 2016 a malicious site that calls itself the Denver Guardian published a story with the headline “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide,” and it was shared half a million times, likely in part because it appeared to be the work of a trusted local publisher.
But while they are likely to cheer the news, local publishers should manage their expectations: they are still competing for a shrinking number of clicks. Zuckerberg said in a blog post this month that the amount of news in the News Feed would decrease from about 5 percent of the total to 4 percent.
Correction, 5:04 p.m.: This article originally said Facebook defines local publishers based on how often they are shared by readers in a geographic area. In fact, Facebook defines publishers by often they are clicked on by readers in a geographic area.