Strategy report: How local news publishers are embracing an audience-first approach on Facebook


Using the public data of about 2,700 local news publisher Facebook pages from July 2018 to June 2019, CrowdTangle published key trends in a recent report that addresses the question, “How is U.S. Local News performing on Facebook in 2019?

Based on the trends in the data presented by CrowdTangle, the Local News Resource Center — funded by the Facebook Journalism Project to bolster the value of social media and enhance social media literacy among LMA and LMC members — has outlined three action items discovered through interviews with local news organizations whose Facebook page data was used for the report. The examples showcase ways publishers have harnessed their own data to build robust Facebook posting strategies, heighten engagement and increase social referrals.

1. Share local links

Work to understand the kind of links that overperform in your market and tailor messaging expertly.

Post frequency and post mix are stable year-over-year, but interactions are up, especially on links. U.S. local news pages on average post links about 80% of the time, according to the CrowdTangle report, and local media are finding ways to capitalize on local links.

At Erie Times-News, photo galleries have high impact. At WTNH, missing persons reports garner high engagement and rally the community. Read more from publishers about how they give special attention to understand overperforming content, which improves their social positioning for link posts.

2. Find your unique audience schedule

Regularly review data to discover programming and news consumption trends for your specific audience, and dispatch those learnings in schedules and standards.

There is no perfect time to post on Facebook, but posts perform better when published during peak “awake” hours in the U.S., according to the report.

We wanted to learn if media organizations can benefit from refined posting schedules. The Erie Times-News shared that early morning posts are pivotal reach engagement goals, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focuses on content that is fundamentally shareable. Read more about how news organizations review their own data to understand their local community’s consumption habits to build schedules and programming standards around those patterns. 

3. Inspire with local video

Lean into local inspiration and two-way interactions as a foundation of highly engaging video.

The CrowdTangle report details that videos are highly engaging and longer videos garner more views. People used the love reaction more than twice as much YOY and were more likely to comment on a Facebook Live than any other type of post.

We asked local newsrooms what videos are most engaging and why. At Fox 8 News Cleveland and Gray Television, Facebook Live videos are a key post type for comments. At WTNH and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, heartwarming, inspirational and user-generated videos help drive high engagement and strengthen trust with the audience. Read our interviews to see the local inspirations and Facebook Live posts that solicit significant interaction and why all newsrooms should lean into highly engaging social video opportunities.

The 2019 U.S. Local News Trends report shows that local news pages are seeing a higher return on investment in Facebook posts YOY. Newsrooms are capitalizing on opportunities to understand their audience through data analysis and reading the signals to get more engagement from video, links, and strategic scheduling.

Keep reading: 

What local news links overperform on Facebook and why?

Can media organizations benefit from refined posting schedules on Facebook?

What local news Facebook videos are most engaging and why?

This report was produced by the Local News Resource Center, funded by the Facebook Journalism Project