Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook's news feed is now all about local news in latest "pivot to video" media move

 
Lynsey Barber
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Local news will now be favoured by Facebook's algorithms (Source: Getty)

Facebook is once again changing course, with Mark Zuckerberg revealing that the social network will increase its focus on local news.

The latest direction comes hot on the heels of a major rethink of the news feed - the main page which greets Facebook's 2bn plus users and through which they engage.

"Our next update on our 2018 focus to make sure Facebook isn't just fun but also good for your well-being and for society...," said Zuckerberg.

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"People consistently tell us they want to see more local news on Facebook. Local news helps us understand the issues that matter in our communities and affect our lives. Research suggests that reading local news is directly correlated with civic engagement. People who know what's happening around them are more likely to get involved and help make a difference."

Previously Facebook had said it would essentially demote media and business from news feeds and promote updates from family and friends. It is also asking users what they deem to be "trustworthy" news sources.

It comes as Facebook faces growing scrutiny over its power and the influence of fake news and disinformation through the platform.

The strategy chief of advertising agency Publicis Groupe yesterday likened Zuckerberg to Voldemort, the villain in Harry Potter.

"So many places and times I heard Mark Zuckerberg being mentioned not in name but as some dark force like Voldemort in Harry Potter," said Rishad Tobaccowala in a round up of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos which took place last week.

Read more: The "big tech" backlash has yet to reach Wall Street

Facebook has previously put a major focus on video, leading top media publications to shift resources to the format. Media businesses are looking for ways to monetise online audiences, particularly those traditionally from print where revenues are shrinking, largely due to the rise of Facebook and other tech giants. Facebook's share of the UK digital advertising market, along with Google is expected to rise to 55 per cent in the UK this year.

But video is more costly to produce than written content and the results of such a shift have yet to become apparent. The phrase "pivot to video" has also increasingly become shorthand for organisations cutting back on resources and an example of a flash in the pan trend on which struggling publishers have jumped in to in the hopes it can plug losses.

Google this week also announced a local news initiative called Bulletin. Initially the app, which will focus on crowdsourced local stories and events, will be piloted in the US.

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