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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Facebook and News Deserts

At Facebook, we’ve been working to better understand the local news vacuum in conjunction with the development of Today In, a new place on Facebook for local news, information, and community conversation. We designed Today In in response to what we heard people on Facebook want, after conducting research in mid-2017 that found people wanted to see more local news and community information. We’ve now rolled it out to over 400 cities in the US.
To build Today In, we needed to know, for any given community in the US, what local news was available on Facebook at a given time. Through a five-step algorithmic process, we learned how much local journalism is being shared on Facebook in towns across the country. We also learned where the holes are – places where we can’t identify enough regular local reporting on Facebook.
About one in three users in the U.S. live in places where we cannot find enough local news on Facebook to launch Today In. What does that mean exactly? In the last 28 days, there has not been a single day where we’ve been able to find five or more recent news articles directly related to these towns. This does not vary much by region: 35% of users in the Midwest, Northeast, and South – and 26% in the West – live in places where we can’t find much local news on Facebook.
Today we’re also announcing a new pilot program, the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network, to support projects aimed at building community through local news. Launching with an open call for applications in early May, the FJP Community Network will be offering grants and opportunities for expert support. Whether a publisher is trying to build a new business around memberships, report in an underserved community, or build a tool that helps local storytellers find and engage news audiences — we want to provide runway for them to serve their community. Grant recipients will be connected to Facebook’s community of Accelerator alumni as well as to fellow grant awardees, establishing a network of experts and resources for continued support.