Facebook just announced that the social network is making it easier for people to find news and information from their local towns and cities with the expansion of one of their new features called “Today In,” which just started testing for local alerts from relevant government pages.
According to the company, Today In essentially connects people to local news and information about their community.
It is now available in over 400 cities in the US, along with an international test in Australia.
In addition, Facebook has started testing Today In in communities located in news deserts, places that have low supply of local news and community information, by supplementing with relevant content from surrounding areas.
“Earlier this year, we started testing Today In after we did research in which over 50% of people told us they wanted to see more local news and community information on Facebook — more than any other type of content we asked about,” the company explained in a recent blog post. “The research showed that people wanted both what might be traditionally understood as local news — breaking news or information about past events like city council meetings, crime reports and weather updates — as well as community information that could help them make plans, like bus schedules, road closures and restaurant openings.”
Today In aggregates local news and community information in a separate section within the Facebook app. People who live in a city where Today In is currently available can visit this section directly, and they can choose to turn on local updates to start seeing a collection of local news more regularly in their News Feed.
According to one user, Tina, from Peoria, Illinois:
“I use [Today in Peoria] every day. That’s the first thing I do in the morning. I work a lot of hours…my phone is always on me, and it’s how I find out about everything going on in town — news, current events, everything. It’s very handy. It’s my go-to for anything and everything.”
To learn more about how and why Facebook built Today In, see our Inside Feed story.
Local Alerts from Government and First Responder Pages
In addition to expanding the availability of Today In, Facebook is running a test with over 100 local government and first responder Pages to help them communicate time-sensitive and need-to-know information to people on the social network.
“People tell us it is important to receive timely, local updates in situations that directly affect them or that require them to take action, such as major road closures, blackouts or natural disasters,” said a company spokesperson. “The local alert label appears in News Feed and Today In, and we are also testing notifications, which participating Pages can target to people who live in the affected areas.”
During Hurricane Florence, 17 first responder pages posted 73 local alerts, providing critical updates to people living in the path of the storm. The City of Charlotte Government is one of Facebook’s first partners to test local alerts:
“During Hurricane Florence, we saw the power of the local alerts functionality seconds after applying the tag. Increased engagement, especially shares, with our critical messages played an invaluable role in helping keep our community safe. Being able to reach all of our followers and residents in the immediate area during a crisis or major event is a game changer.”