Facebook launches ‘Today In’ local news service in Australia

Facebook has launched the Australian version of its ‘today in’ local news and community information service across ten regional cities.

Australia is the first international market for the service, which launched in six US cities at the beginning of the year.

The Australian cities in the initial Australian rollout include Ballarat, Bendigo, Canberra, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hobart, Newcastle, Toowoomba, Townsville and Wollongong.

‘Today In’ will feature community news information in a seperate tab on the Facebook app. Its release comes several days after local news startup Nextdoor officially launched in Australia.

Andrew Hunter, Facebook’s news partnership lead for Australia and New Zealand, told Mumbrella about how the locations were selected: “There were a few criteria. One was the size of the place, so we’re looking for places with up to 500,000 monthly Facebook users – small to medium-sized towns.

“We’re also looking at the amount of content that’s coming out of those geographies as well. How much news content is coming out on a daily basis, what sort of groups information there is, how active the groups are. Events are another part.”

“We have done research showing people in Australia are particularly interested in local news and information. Our research shows that there’s a particular affiliation for this type of content.

“The fact it’s an English language market also helps. We hope that this is going to be a global product, so the decision has been made to extend it to Australia first.”

Hunter dismissed concerns that Facebook’s move will affect already cash strapped regional media outlets: “There’s no advertising in ‘today in’. We’re effectively using what is a new place on Facebook to effectively showcase local news information.

“People can click on the links and go to the local news site where the publisher can monetise that.

“This is distribution for Facebook over and above news feed. People will see an update in news feed and then opt into ‘today in’, which is a separate place on the site or app to news feed.

“There is no extra effort news organisations have to put into this product to be part of it. If they’re producing local news and publishing it to their Facebook page, we will aggregate it.”

Facebook users can can also opt in to receive regular updates from ‘today in’, which will highlight the most popular information from the service, in addition to the local news in Facebook’s news feed and on publishers’ pages.


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