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How Local Publishers Are Adapting to Facebook’s News Feed Changes

Facebook’s decision in January to change its News Feed algorithm and prioritize content from friends, family, and groups caused a collective shudder across the media landscape. But now three months after Facebook’s News Feed changes were announced, some local publishers are finding ways to use the new algorithm to their advantage.

Facebook’s decision may ultimately impact major publishers like CNN and Buzzfeed more strongly than smaller, hyperlocal publishers. The reason? Readers tend to have more personal relationships with local publishers than national media organizations. They’re more likely to comment and interact with community-focused content in a way that demonstrates to Facebook that they’re engaged, as well.

Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the point in his own Facebook post, pledging to Facebook users that the site was going to “show more stories from news sources in your local town or city,” and saying that stories from local publishers may show up higher in users’ news feeds with the new algorithm in place.

Facebook’s survival is based on users being active on the platform, and the company’s new algorithm prioritizes engagement and activity over time spent on the site. Click bait headlines and splashy images are no longer enough for publishers to overcome Facebook’s algorithm. What will work, as always, is solid content that readers want to engage with. Publishers with engaged audiences can expect to receive priority in Facebook’s News Feed.

Here are five things that publishers can do to take advantage of Facebook’s News Feed changes:

  1. Show readers how to follow along on Facebook.
    The majority of people who follow local publishers on social media do so passively, meaning they rarely search out publishers, and they rely on their news feeds to keep them up to date. Because Facebook’s algorithm changes are making this harder, some media outlets are publishing instructional guides on their websites for readers who want to continue getting their news through Facebook. Step-by-step directions show readers how to update their Facebook settings so a publisher’s stories appear first in their news feeds. This is a good first step for publishers to shore up their most loyal fans.
  2. Focus on content distribution outside of Facebook.
    It may seem counterintuitive, but the key to distributing content inside Facebook is to create a great user experience outside of the platform. That means dedicating more resources to developing a website that’s mobile responsive and publishing the best content possible on that website. Ideally, a local publisher’s website will have impeccable design and it will be setup in a way that enables user-friendly content discovery.
  3. Ramp up email marketing efforts.
    Facebook’s News Feed changes are spurring some hyperlocal publishers to ramp up their email marketing efforts. In posts on their Facebook pages and editorial announcements on their websites, publishers are warning readers that they may no longer see breaking news on Facebook. To avoid missing out on local alerts and news updates, publishers are encouraging readers to sign-up for email newsletters. Newsletters can be sent out daily, weekly, or exclusively during breaking news events. A drop in Facebook traffic could actually mean an increase in readers for publishers who are successful in increasing sign-ups for their email newsletters.
  4. Provide readers with other options.
    Hyperlocal news outlets like Planet Princeton, in Princeton, New Jersey, are posting announcements to let readers know what they can do to continue receiving news updates throughout the day, given Facebook’s News Feed changes. Some of those recommendations include subscribing to the site’s RSS feed, signing up for web browser push notifications, and following along on other social media networks, like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Reddit.
  5. Reach out to small business advertisers.
    Small businesses are being hit especially hard by Facebook’s algorithm change, as the organic content they were posting for free is now being seen by fewer of their followers. Local publishers can capitalize on this by reaching out to small businesses in their communities with new opportunities to advertise on their websites and within their email newsletters.