The immensely popular social network for millennials and users of all ages, Facebook is on a drive to ease out the availability of local news from vetted sources for its user base. The new section of this fascinating app is called “Today In”, a feed that would wholly feature local news, events, and announcements. Facebook is giving a good look at the configuration and testing of this engaging new attribute.
As for now, the test is confined to six cities only: New Orleans, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; Billings, Mont.; Peoria, Ill.; Olympia, Wash.; and Binghamton, N.Y. Thereby, it goes to follow that the social network users self-identifying as inhabitants of these specific areas will have access to this new section for local stories like emergency updates from local authorities and so on.
Content creation in this section is attributed to machine learning software used by Facebook. As reported by a company spokesperson, the Company’s News Partnerships team which is directed by former NBC News Anchor Campbell Brown is entrusted with the responsibility of approving and vetting the local news publishers featuring on Facebook. This is all supposedly part of Facebook’s Journalism Project initiative that was launched by the social media following last year’s U.S. Presidential election. There was a charge being circulated against Facebook that during the election season, a so-called fake news doing rounds on the social network was partially responsible for Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, and so the tech giant was partly to blame for it. Nevertheless, Facebook’s new Journalism Project initiative and the new section does away with the pointing fingers.
Furthermore, the company has tested and introduced an array of other news-related features this year as part of its drive which includes stories held disputed by outside fact-checkers ( it ceased using the ‘disputed tags’ in December 2017)
Facebook is cautiously hand-selecting local publishers to feature on this new section of the app that should help keep fake news at bay to a large extent and thus substantially prevent the dissemination of false information to the user base.
But, the question that cuts through is will this section benefit the local publishers, or not? Possibilities indicate that being part of a distinct, local section of the app might help draw more traffic back to publishers’ own news pieces and websites where being advertised on Facebook by featuring on the app will add to their revenues, but the section by itself won’t help them make money. The benefit of advertising, gained through Facebook will further depend on the number of users who frequently use the new section. The people in the six test cities are to be alerted by Facebook that the new feature has been brought in already, but after that, Facebook “Today In” will feature in the menu (☰) where Facebook sports several other lesser-used sections of the app.
The social networking firm wants to expand this app to more cities and then other countries gradually. The users will then also be able to follow the cities that they do not currently live in, like childhood hometown.
Going “Local” spells out the theme for Facebook over the last 18 months as it started providing more posts from local politicians and is also expanding Marketplace, its Craigslist-style platform that is used by people for sale of products to their neighbors.
In November 2018, Facebook’s standalone events were also rebranded as “Facebook Local”, which directs users to the precise location of nearby restaurants, events etc. “Facebook Local” is entirely distinct from “Today In”.
With the launch of Facebook Today In, the giant company manifests its vision and goal as stated by its Founder, Mark Zuckerberg in 2017 – “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”