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article imageFacebook to prioritise local news

By James Walker     Jan 30, 2018 in Technology
Facebook has announced another major change to its News Feed as it refocuses around "authentic" content. The company will now favour news from local publications. Facebook said this could increase "civic engagement" by encouraging people to get involved.
Writing in a Facebook post today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will begin to show more stories from regional news publishers with immediate effect. If you're following a publisher that's based near to you, you'll be more likely to see their content higher in the News Feed. Local news posts which are shared by your friends will also have a higher chance of being displayed.
Facebook's not placing any hard restrictions around what counts as a "local publisher." According to the company, a local news outlet is one with links that are generally clicked on by readers in a small geographic area. This will benefit regional publishers that tend to provide coverage of events in their local town or city.
Facebook said it's received user feedback from people who want to see more local news. It claimed that people who frequently read local stories are more likely to get involved with their community, increasing civic engagement. The move could also help to bury some of the more divisive national stories, making the News Feed a less provocative place that creates more meaningful engagement.
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"People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook. Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives," said Zuckerberg. "Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement. People who know what's happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference."
The change comes after Facebook announced a complete rethinking of the News Feed earlier this month. The company said it wants to improve "personal well-being" by refocusing the News Feed around interactions with friends and family.
As a consequence of this, the overall distribution of news on Facebook is expected to decrease. Although local publishers will be impacted by this, Facebook said the changes announced today will help regional news sites to rank more highly in their target geographic areas.
Facebook's also trialling a new app section that's dedicated to local news and events. This initiative is separate from the local news priority bump in News Feed. The "Today In" feed is tailored to individual cities and is currently only available in select U.S. locations. Unlike the News Feed changes, publishers have to apply and be verified before they can display stories in Today In.
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