Facebook’s News Feed will now prioritize local news

Locally sourced.
Locally sourced.
Image: Reuters/Eric Gaillard
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Keeping up with what’s new in Facebook’s News Feed is becoming a full-time job.

First, Facebook told us that there would be less news on Facebook. Then it told us it would boost “trustworthy” news sources. And now it’s saying it will prioritize news from local outlets.

In its latest announcement, the company says users will see more posts from local sources “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.”

In a Facebook post, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose 2018 self-improvement project is “fixing Facebook,” says that users have been asking to see more local news on Facebook. “Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives,” he writes. “Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement.”

What this means in practice, he says, is that if you follow a local publisher or if someone shares a local story, it will appear higher in your feed. The update will first be rolled out in the US, with the aim of expanding it to other countries later in the year.

The company says small outlets might benefit from this change the most, since their audience is likely to be more concentrated in one location.

The company hinted these changes were coming in last week’s announcement about trusted news sources, but the barrage of updates provides perhaps more questions than answers: Overall, will we actually see less news than we do now? Who will end up counting as a “trusted” news source? What will this ultimately mean for publishers? What is Facebook trying to be?

What’s more, it seems that further changes are to come. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to prioritize high-quality news,” wrote Alex Hardiman, head of news product, and Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships, in a release. “All of our work to reduce false news, misinformation, clickbait, sensationalism and inauthentic accounts still applies.”