January 10, 2018

Facebook announced a new experiment in local news on Tuesday with "Today In."

The feature, which brings together local news, updates and events, can be found in the drop-down menu on Facebook's mobile app in six cities: New Orleans; Little Rock, Arkansas; Billings, Montana; Peoria, Illinois; Olympia, Washington; and Binghamton, New York.

Image via Facebook

It's an offering similar to something Google introduced last year with "Community Updates." 

Facebook's overtures toward working with local news began last year with the Facebook Journalism Project, which Poynter is part of.

That work included training local journalists in best practices for Facebook and a handful of products aimed at better helping people discover local news. And as my colleague Ren LaForme and I reported last year, Facebook groups were a critical tool for newsrooms covering the hurricane. 

So what might local news organizations get out of this latest experiment?

Traffic, maybe, Kurt Wagner writes for Recode. 

It’s possible that being part of a separate, local section of the app will help drive more traffic back to publishers’ stories and websites where they can make money through advertising, but there is no way for publishers to make money off the new local section at launch.

Even generating that extra traffic will depend on whether or not Facebook users frequent the new section.

Meanwhile, there's real angst about another experiment Facebook conducted last year in six different countries by taking the actual news out of the newsfeed. The company told Digiday's Lucia Moses that "there is no current plan to roll this out beyond these test countries or to charge pages on Facebook to pay for all their distribution in News Feed or Explore.”

Still, at the beginning of the year, GroundSource's Simmon Galperin wrote on Medium that it's time to prepare for that possibility.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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