Facebook’s latest news feed change prioritizes what’s going on nearby

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As Facebook prioritizes posts from friends and trusted news sources, the platform is building in yet another news feed change: more local news. On Monday, January 29, Facebook announced a News Feed update that prioritizes local news by placing local sources higher up in the news feed.

Facebook determines what’s local news by looking at a sort of geographic click map — if a majority of those clicking on links to that source are coming from the same region, Facebook’s algorithms mark that source as local news. Users living within that region will see posts from that local news source higher up in the news feed if they follow that publication. If a friend shares an article from a local news source, that link is also now more likely to show up higher in the feed.

“People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post Monday. “Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in out communities and affect out 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.”

The algorithm changes are first rolling out inside the U.S., but Facebook says it plans to expand to more areas before the end of the year. In six cities, Facebook is also testing a local “Today In” section designed to offer easy access to local, recent news and other information. Facebook now says that this test is expected to roll out to more areas over the next few months.

For publishers, Facebook says that local news outlets will likely benefit from this change. Large publications could also benefit when some of the readership is interested in a specific location. Facebook categorizes local news and sports along with local blogs as news sources, while local events and businesses are excluded from this change.

The social media giant says the news feed change is just the beginning — over time, the platform will improve at properly identifying local news outlets, Facebook says. The platform also reminds users that the “See First” tool helps customize that news feed prioritization.

The updated news feed algorithms are part of Facebook’s larger plan to, as Zuckerberg says, “make sure Facebook isn’t just fun but also good for your well-being and for society.” A previously announced change that prioritizes friends posts brings the amount of news in the typical feed down from five percent to four. Another change announced this month uses a two-question survey to help determine how “trustworthy” a news publication is.