After first launching its ‘Today In’ local news module in six US cities in January 2018, Facebook has this week announced that localized versions of the offering, which is designed to promote increased civic engagement, will now be made available to over 6,000 cities and towns across the US.
‘Today In’, which is available via in-feed prompts, or via your Facebook apps listing, highlights the biggest news stories of interest in your local region, as well as local Page posts which are generating discussion, upcoming events, weather, local groups, school updates, etc.
The intention of ‘Today In’ is basically to keep you updated on happenings in your community, in order to prompt increased participation. It could also, theoretically, help make Facebook a more significant platform within each area, and increase focus on happenings in your region, as opposed to Facebook facilitating often more divisive, aggressive discussions on broader world issues, which users tend to have less direct exposure to.
According to Facebook, ‘Today In’ is seeing increased usage: “It’s been less than a year since we started expanding ‘Today In’ across the U.S., and there are now over 1.6 million people who have opted in to receive regular local updates from ‘Today In’ within News Feed.”
In relative terms, that might not sound overly impressive – for context, Facebook currently has 244 million active users in North America. But still, it has only been available in selected regions, and even at those amounts, it is still enabling Facebook to better promote local news content, and local publishers, which will now see significant expansion through broader availability.
In fact, the capacity to better showcase local news is another key focus of the program.
“‘Today In’ features articles from over 1,200 local news publishers every week, and as we expand to more cities, these numbers will only go up. CrowdTangle released a trends report focused on the performance of U.S. local news on Facebook between July 2018 and June 2019. The findings show that U.S. local news Pages have seen significant increases in interactions per post (26%) year over year. For links specifically, total interactions were up 50% year over year, and people shared U.S. local news link posts 97% more year over year.”
This new expansion, Facebook says, will also bring more localized content to “news deserts”, places which have a limited supply of local news. Facebook sources this localized content by “supplementing the available local news with relevant articles from surrounding areas”.
In addition to this, Facebook’s also expanding the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network grant project, which aims to fund local journalism, while it’s also testing its breaking news indicator with more local news publishers in the U.S.
According to Andrew Hutchinson, SocialMediaToday (091419), “When local news publishers mark a post as “breaking news,“ people see the breaking news indicator next to that post in News Feed. We have also been experimenting with real-time notifications for Page followers, as well as an integration with ‘Today In’, where breaking news posts are pinned to the top.”
There’s definitely a lot to like about ‘Today In’, and you can clearly see the potential for increased community awareness and participation.
This should be a benefit in Facebook and Facebook users making a ‘Today In’ feed update an essential for all users in all regions where it’s available each day.
It stands as a good initiative, and local news publishers need all the assistance they can get. It is anticipated through continual adjustments and improvements, Facebook can make ‘Today In’ a more essential element for a rising number of people, and broader availability will obviously play a part in that. Maximizing exposure seems to be the key component.
You can check if ‘Today In’ is available in your region here . 💡