Facebook says it will show more local news stories in your News Feed as part of a major overhaul to its algorithm. This is the third major change coming to News Feed in a span of less than a month.
“Starting today, we’re going to show more stories from news sources in your local town or city. If you follow a local publisher or if someone shares a local story, it may show up higher in News Feed,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post announcing the change.
The change will result in Facebook users seeing more news from local publishers whether they follow them or not. Facebook users who follow a local news publication will see more stories from them while people who don’t follow a local news outlet will still see local news if those stories are shared by friends in their network.
This is the third major change after the social media giant overhauled the feed to reflect more content from friends and family and show less of news and other commercial content. It also followed up with an initiative to show more content from trustworthy publications by getting feedback on which publications users trust. Zuckerberg adds that the change is partly based on his recent tour of the US mainland that he took last year.
Facebook says people come to the platform to connect with friends, and see news about what’s happening in the world and their local community. The social media platform will identify local publishers by looking at whose links readers click in a particular geographic area. “If a story is from a publisher in your area, and you either follow the publisher’s Page or your friend shares a story from that outlet, it might show up higher in News Feed,” Facebook said in a blog post.
The update will first take effect in the US, but Facebook plans to expand to more countries this year. In theory, it will help large local publishers benefit, but the goal is top show more local news publishers. The change will also lead to less false news or clickbait and misinformation on the platform. Facebook has been taking steps to reduce engagement-bait on its platform for the last few months.
Alex Hardiman, Head of News Product and Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships reiterates that the amount of news on News Feed will go down, but it is not getting of news altogether. The move can be seen as an effort to steer clear of the enhanced scrutiny by US senators on whether the platform was used to spread false information during the Presidential race.
This is the second time Facebook is going after hyper local news on its platform. The company had earlier announced ‘Today In’, a dedicated section connecting people to news in their community, available in six cities. It is not clear if the change will have any major impact for local news publishers but the whole News Feed could end up being less cluttered than before and have quality in terms of news shown in the feed.