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You’ll never believe Facebook’s most-shared story of 2019

TV stations, radio stations and newspapers dot the landscape around the country to keep local residents informed. Stories they cover rarely see the light of day anywhere outside a particular area.

Sometimes a local story makes it to the national level because of a wider interest. Think of a heartwarming report, like a member of the armed forces coming home to surprise his or her family. On the other end of the spectrum, a local story often make news across the country if something really bad happens.

Most local happenings are never meant to make it to a national audience, even if it’s an urgent situation. And that raises the question of how one news brief got so big on Facebook that it’s become the most-shared story so far of 2019. You’ll never guess what it is.

Local crime brief spreads like wildfire on Facebook

Analytics firm NewsWhip recently published a guide that looked at the standout content so far in 2019, and the most-shared story is a real head-scratcher. No one knows exactly how it made it to the top spot.

According to a new report by Slate, a couple of months ago the digital managing editor for five radio stations in central Texas came across a story that had been posted by a TV station in Waco. It was potentially a public safety issue, about the search for a human trafficking suspect believed to be in the Waco area.

KTEM NewsRadio has a partnership with that TV station, so web editor Aaron Savage wrote up a 119-word brief about the search for this suspect, citing and linking to the TV station’s story, then posted it to the local radio websites he’s in charge of. Then he shared it on the Facebook page of one of their radio stations a short time later. That’s all it took.

It became the most-shared post ever for the Facebook page of US 105 FM New Country, which is based in Temple, Texas. Not just that, but it’s more than 800,000 shares in the weeks following sent it to top of the most-shared list of any post. It had twice as many shares as any other English-language content. And there was a lot of big stories earlier this year, like the government shutdown.

How did this local story get so big?

Facebook tries so very hard to make its personalized News Feed your one-stop shop for everything, whether it’s updates from your friends or the big news of the day. But let’s face it, they never quite hit the mark on that effort, so they’re constantly messing with their algorithms. Those algorithms help determine what posts rise above and go viral, from those cute dog videos to celebrity gossip.

Click or tap to listen to Kim in just one minute discuss how Facebook wants more of your personal data.

Was it the algorithms that spread this story like wildfire? No one seems certain. However, it was just last year that Facebook made some big changes to their algorithms to promote content from trusted and local sources. It was definitely local, so that met the criteria. It also had a lot of comments, which Facebook considers “meaningful interactions.”

That also leads to the headline: “Suspected Human Trafficker, Child Predator May Be in Our Area.” The algorithms might have picked up on the urgency of the headline, and shared it with a wider audience than it normally would. And because the headline didn’t specifically mention where this was happening, “our area” could be anywhere to someone who didn’t bother to read the story before keeping the share train going.


Regardless, it was huge for the small radio station. Analytics from Facebook-owned CrowdTangle says there were 50,000 shares on the original post to US 105 FM’s page – a page that only has about 7,000 followers to begin with.

Komando on KTEM

Speaking of KTEM NewsRadio, it’s one of hundreds of radio stations around the country that airs the Kim Komando Show each week. You can catch the show on longtime affiliate KTEM 1400 AM every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Central.

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