Facebook vowed to feature more local stories on the News Feed, with its Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg describing the move as the next step in the company's effort to make the landing page of the largest social media network on the planet more useful and personalized. The company's definition of a "local publisher" isn't solely tied to a media outlet's physical location but the location of its readers; if some source receives a lot of traffic from what Facebook categorizes as "a tight geographic area" and their authors reside in its proximity, they will automatically be classified as local publishers by the firm's algorithms, hence being more likely to be prominently featured on the News Feed of their target audience.
The feature is still in an experimental phase of development and will remain exclusive to the United States for the time being, though Facebook is planning to expand its presence later this year. The company has yet to elaborate on the matter and it remains unclear how many countries will be encompassed by the functionality in the near future. The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant explicitly related the change to its recent decision to revamp the News Feed and largely purge it from content posted by pages, media outlets included. While the overall volume of articles and posts from publishers featured high on the News Feed is hence expected to go down, Facebook wants to distribute the few remaining units meant to host articles among publishers it deems the most deserving of that benefit. Outlets with a strong local focus fit that bill, as do those that are generally perceived to be trusted sources and have already started receiving a boost in rankings starting last week. Ultimately, Facebook is hoping that its new strategy will increase the average quality of stories people encounter on the News Feed.
Facebook expects small publishers to benefit from the change more than the major ones, though it claims everyone will be better off due to the revamp in the long term. It's still unclear how the decision is meant to benefit global outlets whose target audience isn't tied to a specific geographical location and whose ad revenues have been eroding in recent years together with those of smaller publishers, largely due to Facebook and Google's growing digital marketing dominance. The company also said it expects the change to reduce the number of sensationalized and factually incorrect stories on the News Feed, hence being yet another one of its attempts to combat the so-called "fake news" that has been troubling it in recent times.