Facebook Launches ‘Today In’ to Connect Users with Local News

It is currently available in 400+ U.S. cities and is being tested in Australia and "news deserts."

Subscription Insider: Facebook Launches ‘Today In’ to Connect Users with Local News

Source: Facebook

Last week, Facebook announced the launch of its Today In, a new section on Facebook that aggregates local news and information by city. Currently, Today In is available in more than 400 U.S. cities and some cities in Australia where Facebook is testing the app. Facebook is also testing news deserts which have few news outlets by connecting them with related content in neighboring areas.

Users in cities where Today In is available can go to the section directly, or they can turn on local updates to see more local news stories in their Facebook news feeds. To find out if your city is among the 400+ in the initial launch, visit Facebook’s Today In availability page or go to the Facebook app, click on the menu bars and look for “Today In {Your City Name Here}.”

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Subscription Insider: Facebook Launches ‘Today In’ to Connect Users with Local News

Source: Facebook

Facebook developed the tool after their research told them that more than 50 percent of users they contacted told Facebook they wanted more local news and community information including breaking news, city council reports, crime information, road closures, bus closures, weather updates and more.

“We’re making it easier for people to find news and information from their local towns and cities. Today we’re announcing the expansion of a new local section on Facebook called ‘Today In’ and starting a test for local alerts from relevant government pages,” said Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for local news and community information for Facebook, in the November 28 announcement.

“We’ve seen that people value Today In for helping them stay informed about what’s happening nearby, finding information that directly impacts their day, and discovering ways to support their local community through events or volunteers,” Watson Strong added.

In an October 10 blog post, Watson Strong said she wanted a place where people could participate in quality public discussions about important local issues.

“I want to build the infrastructure that helps people create safe, supportive and inclusive communities,” she said.

What’s next? Facebook wants to expand Today In to other cities. It is also working with more than 100 local governments and first responder pages to help them share time-sensitive information important to their local audiences, including natural disasters and major road closures. The pages can then target Facebook users who live in affected areas and the posts are tagged with a local alert label in News Feeds and on the Today In page. This tool was put to the test during Hurricane Florence when the City of Charlotte used it to share critical information about road conditions and how to sign up for emergency updates.

Subscription Insider: Facebook Launches ‘Today In’ to Connect Users with Local News

Source: Facebook

Insider Take:

Facebook has been on the bubble lately, getting a lot of scrutiny for business practices, business decisions, privacy leaks, etc. While we can certainly be skeptical and hope such things improve, the bottom line is that Facebook is here to stay, and we can complain about it, but it won’t stop us for using it. Many businesses have come to rely on it as a way to communicate with and attract customers, so we need to embrace it, regardless of its faults.

That said, they are doing some amazing work. This new tool, if it is everything it purports to be, is a great way to aggregate local information from a variety of sources, so Facebook users have one source to go for a sampling of local news. The real test will be how that information is sourced and “vetted.” Is the sampling of stories representative of a particular area? Are they other important news sources missing?

I, for one, am very excited about the possibilities for this new product, and excited that my town happens to be on the list of Today In cities.