Facebook can’t stop scratching its news itch

Chris Davies - Jan 29, 2018, 3:37 pm CDT
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Facebook can’t stop scratching its news itch

Facebook may have declared news unwelcome in the News Feed, but it can’t stop messing with that decision. The social network has announced that, while it may be minimizing the amount of news articles you see as you’re scrolling through your friends’ baby photos, that’s not entirely going to be case.

In fact, it’ll still be slotting news stories in there too, only local news. “People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, claims. “Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives. 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.”

Since local is one of those definitions that could be tricky to pin down, Facebook is turning to algorithms to settle what’s local and what’s not. Basically, if the links are clicked on by readers “in a tight geographic area,” Facebook says, it’ll be considered local. If the publisher responsible is also in your area, and you follow their page – or have a friend who shares an article from that outlet – then you may well see it in your News Feed.

Unsurprisingly, with many publishers already seeing a dramatic fall off in traffic after Facebook’s initial news changes earlier this month, there are plenty of questions surrounding yet another modification to the social site’s initial stance on news. Facebook says that it means local news will be prioritized and thus be more likely to appear higher in users’ News Feed. It also says there’s no constraint on which publishers are eligible.

That means, supposedly, that both large and niche local publishers could see their traffic tick upward from the change. All the same, there’s no guarantee, and as ever Facebook’s core algorithms remain fairly mysterious.

It’s not the only change being announced today, however. Facebook also announced a new news-focused section, dubbed “Today In,” which will be a specific place for information from their community. That’s been tested in six cities in the US initially, though Facebook says it plans to expand that over the coming months.

As for the greater proportion of local news, that’s also rolling out in the US to begin with. Facebook says it plans to expand to more countries later in the year. If there are specific publications you’d like to see more from, meanwhile, the Facebook “See First” feature allows you to set those sources.


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