Facebook’s Today In Local News Feature Expands to Some 6,000 U.S. Cities

The social network is testing a breaking news indicator with over 150 publishers

The indicator appears next to posts in News Feed that publishers have marked as breaking news
Facebook

Facebook’s Today In local news and community information feature is now available in some 6,000 towns and cities in the U.S.

Product manager Anthea Watson Strong said in a blog post that since the social network began testing Today In in January 2018, 1.6 million people have opted in to receive regular updates in their News Feeds.

People who live in a location where Today In is available can access the feature via Facebook’s menu, where they can also opt in to updates or change their city.

Strong also revealed that Facebook has been testing its breaking news indicator with over 150 local news publishers in the U.S.

The indicator appears next to posts in News Feed that those publishers have marked as breaking news, and the social network is also resting real-time notifications for people who follow those publishers’ pages, along with an integration with Today In that would pin those posts to the top.

Wausau (Wis.) Pilot and Review publisher Shereen Siewert said in the blog post, “The local breaking news feature has been enormously beneficial for us. It has helped boost our reputation as a serious news organization, drawing readers to our stories first. We have compared our shares and comments on stories marked as breaking with similar news coverage posted later by other outlets and have been tremendously pleased with our results. We have seen a significant bump in our engagement for stories marked as breaking and, since we began using this tool, we’ve also seen an overall increase in page views.”

Sinclair Broadcast Group senior director of social media John Colucci added, “We’ve been pleased with the deployment of the breaking news pilot program, which has allowed several of our news stations to ensure that critical information is easily identified and discovered on Facebook. We’ve been able to alert and protect audiences in these markets when news breaks and, as the stories unfold, keep them informed.”

On the publisher side, access to Today In is being limited to publishers who are registered with Facebook’s news page index, and the social network is testing a dashboard for publishers to give them access to information such as which of their articles are appearing in Today In and where, as well as to enable them to ensure that their content is relevant and up to date.

Facebook also released its first-ever CrowdTangle U.S. Local News Trends Report, which analyzed the performance of local news on Facebook in the U.S. between July 2018 and June 2019.

According to the report, local news pages in the U.S. have seen a 26% year-over-year jump in interactions per post, with that increase at 50% for links specifically. People on Facebook also shared 97% more U.S. local link posts year-over-year.

Facebook acquired content-discovery and social analytics tool CrowdTangle in November 2016.

The social network shared the next round of grants via its Facebook Journalism Project Community Network, which debuted in May with the aim of building community through local news.

Finally, noting that the expansion of Today In covers many “news deserts,” or places with limited access to local news, Strong said the University of Minnesota issued the first report on news deserts using data from Facebook.

Local News on Facebook: Assessing the Critical Information Needs Served Through Facebook’s Today In Feature” was compiled by Matthew Weber, Peter Andringa and Philip M. Napoli.

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