Local news matters on Facebook. The findings in this report show that U.S. local news pages have seen significant increases in interactions per post, despite consistent post output. This indicates that local news pages are seeing higher returns on their Facebook investments year over year.

This report spotlights the performance of ~2,700 U.S. local news publisher pages on Facebook over a 12-month period from July 2018 to June 2019 based on public data from CrowdTangle. The sample is a mix of print, broadcast, news radio and digital first publishers that are members of the following organizations: Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium, National Association of Broadcasters, Local Independent Online News Publishers and the Institute for Nonprofit News. Each publishing organization submitted a list of members to us for use in this report (see our appendix section below for more information on the publisher sample). Next week, the Local Media Association and Local Media Consortium will release a complementary report that provides strategic tips and takeaways based on the data included here, as well as insights from local newsrooms on what’s been working for their Facebook strategies.

Key Findings

  1. Post frequency and post-type mix by U.S. local news pages remained consistent YOY, with little to no variation in post output or post-type mix.
  2. Total Interactions per post consistently trended up for U.S. local news in News Feed between July 2018 and June 2019, increasing 26% YOY.
  3. Total interactions per link post shared by U.S. local news pages experienced an increase of 50% YOY. Previous research published by Facebook in 2018 found that interactions on links show a positive and significant relationship to outbound clicks.
  4. People shared U.S. local news link posts 97% more YOY, even though there was no significant change in the post frequency of links.
  5. Facebook videos (live and on-demand video) accounted for only 11% of posts but drove 24% of the total interactions on U.S. local news content.
  6. Longer videos generated more views than shorter ones. We found that while shorter videos were posted at a higher frequency, longer videos accounted for an outsized share of the total views.
  7. People ‘loved’ U.S. local news video posts 105% more YOY. After ‘likes,’ ‘love’ is by far the most used reaction on local news videos.
  8. Based on interaction rate trends, there is no golden hour for engagement on U.S. local news posts to Facebook. Posts performed better during peak “awake” hours in the U.S. and there was a noticeable dip in performance between 12am and 6am ET. This aligned with user activity on our platform and when people are awake in the U.S. — especially when using Facebook Live, consider your own audience trends to optimize distribution.

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People are finding useful local news on Facebook, both in News Feed, where Facebook previously outlined efforts to surface more local news, and in “Today In,” a new place on Facebook for local news and community information that is now available in over 6.000 U.S. cities and towns.

Local news continues to be an important reason people come to Facebook. The purpose of this report is to highlight trends and share insights that can inform local news publisher posting strategies.

Post Frequency: How frequently are U.S. local newsrooms posting to Facebook?
Total Post Count
Post Count July 2018 – June 2019 vs July 2017 – June 2018
Post Mix: What formats are U.S. local news publishers posting to Facebook?
Total Posts By Type
Post Types Published, July 2018 – June 2019

*For any mentions of “video” in this report, we are referring to on-demand videos that publishers upload to Facebook. We will explicitly call out “live” when referring to that video post type.

Total Interactions: How has engagement developed for U.S. local news publishers on Facebook  this year?
Total Interactions on All Post Types July 2018 – June 2019 vs July 2017 – June 2019
Total Interactions on Video
Total interactions on video posts July 2018 – June 2019 vs July 2017 – June 2018
Interaction Types: How have Facebook news consumers been interacting with U.S. local news publishers over the past year?
Interaction Types
Interaction types on all posts July 2018 – June 2019
What About Interaction Rates?
Interaction Rates All Post Types
Interaction Rates on All Post Types July 2018 – June 2019 vs July 2017 – June 2019
Post Time: What is the optimal time to post on Facebook?
Distribution of Interaction Rates
Interaction Rates for all post types by hour.
Video Views: How are video views performing for U.S. local news pages?
Total Video Posts by Hour
Total posts, videos broken down by length (<1 min & >1min), July 2018 – June 2019
Total Video Views
Total views, videos broken down by length (<1 min & >1 min), July 2018 – June 2019

Contributors:
• Amber Burgess – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – Local News
• Robin Monheit – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – News
• Samantha Bennet – Facebook/CrowdTangle Strategic Partner Manager – Local News
• Patrick Walsh – Facebook Partner Solutions Data Analyst – News, Media Partnership
Maximilian Struller – Facebook Partner Solutions Manager, News, Media Partnerships
• Jake Chang – Facebook Partner Solutions Manager – News, Media Partnerships
• Mari Melguizo –Facebook Communications Manager, News Product
• Will Bleakley – Product Marketing Communications Manager, CrowdTangle
• Francesca Sacasa – Head of Partnerships, CrowdTangle



Appendix: A Note About CrowdTangle’s Data

CrowdTangle tracks public engagement data on public pages for Facebook, Instagram and Reddit. CrowdTangle measurement formulas used in this report include:
Total Interactions: The total number of reactions, shares and comments on a Facebook post. This does not include replies to comments on posts.
Interaction Rate: Calculated by averaging the number of interactions for all of the account’s posts in the specified timeframe, then dividing that by the number of followers/fans.
Page Growth: The number of new likes on Facebook and new followers on Instagram.
Video Views: The number of times a video was watched for an aggregate of at least 3 seconds, or for nearly its total length, whichever happened first (more info here).

CrowdTangle post-types mentioned in this report are defined as:
Links: Links uploaded to the platform
Photos: Photos uploaded to the platform
Video: Videos uploaded to Facebook video players (on-demand video)
Live Video: Videos uploaded using Facebook live
Status: Text only posts

CrowdTangle Features used to build this report include:
Lists
Intelligence
Leaderboards
Historical Data

Report Time Period: July 2018 – June 2019. All YOY comparisons are for the same 12 month range a year prior: July 2017 – June 2018.

The past two years were full of major developments for Facebook’s News Feed. At the beginning of 2018, Facebook announced that we will prioritize posts from friends and family. Additionally, Facebook updated our ranking to help ensure that news on Facebook is from trusted sources and that local news will be prioritized. These changes should be considered as a primer for this report.

A timeline of major News Feed updates in the U.S. are:
• Jan. 11, 2018:  Bringing People Closer Together
• Jan. 29, 2018: More local news on Facebook
• Mar. 26, 2018:  2018: More local news on Facebook, Globally
• Jul. 28, 2018:  Helping Ensure News on Facebook is from Trusted Sources
• April 2019: People, Publishers, the Community
• May 2019: Updates to Video Ranking
• May 2019: Better Connecting You With the People You Care About
• June 2019: Making Public Comments More Meaningful

Page Sample: For this report, we used CrowdTangle to track a custom list of ~2,700 U.S. local news pages on Facebook that are all members of at least one of the following publishing organizations: Local Media Association, Local Media Consortium, National Association of Broadcasters,  Local Independent Online News Publishers and the Institute for Nonprofit News.  Each publishing organization submitted a list of members to us for use in this report.

At times we studied the full list of pages, at others we broke the pages into the following sets:
• Full List = ~2,700 pages
• 1m-3m = ~30 pages
• 500k-1m = ~70 pages
• 100k-500k = ~400 pages
• 10k-100k = ~1,000 pages
• 50-10k = ~1,200 pages