How the Boston Globe uses Facebook’s ad tools to seed stories with high-value readers.

Matt Karolian
4 min readDec 3, 2016


Facebook’s ad tools are incredibly powerful; they were built to allow brands to pinpoint advertisements to highly precise audiences. For brands, this is great, it allows them to show off their wares to people primed to buy. For newsrooms, it represents an opportunity to promote enterprise stories to readers who are sure to be highly engaged.

At The Boston Globe, we’ve seen great results with this approach. It is now an approach we take with almost every big enterprising story we publish.

Join me as we walk through how to set this up.

The Facebook Pixel

To do this effectively, you need to implement a Facebook pixel on your site. It is super easy to do. Facebook gives you a snippet of code and the devs within your organization can drop it into the header. This Pixel will unlock significant amounts of data that you can use for targeting.

Creating A Custom Audience

Once you have the Facebook pixel up and running on your site, head over to to Facebook’s Audience Manager. Once you are within audience manager, you will be able to create a “custom audience”, this is an essential part of the targeting process.

In this example, we are trying to target people who have read our Spotlight reports in the past 180 days.

Once you have the specific audience you want. Just click “Create Audience”.

Creating An Ad

Now that you have your audience, you need to create the ad that they will see. Hit the “Create Ad” button

You will be asked to set an objective for the ad. In this case, we want to send people to an article on our site, so we are going to go use the “Send people to a destination…” option. You would likely be just as well served by using the boost your post option and promoting an existing Facebook post.

You will be taken to this targeting window where you can finetune the targeting of the ads. In this case, we wanted to promote a story to the custom audience we already set up while applying a geofilter to our specific DMA.

You will also be able to set a budget, in this case we are putting a limit of $500 on the spend. We are also setting a time limit on this, ensuring the ads stop running by 2:30pm on 12/5/16

You will now need to design the ad. Because this is just an example, I’m using a photo from the movie Spotlight.

You can also add in URL parameters to help with tracking of performance. If you get real advanced, you can even use this to track conversions.

In our case, this means that we can tell if we generated a new paying subscriber based on a reader clicking the ad and reading the story. Neat!

Once you have completed this process, Facebook will review the ad to ensure it is not in violation of any of their ad policies and the ad will start running.

That's it! This is just the basics — you can get much, much more targeted. So go try it out! Experiment, learn new things and help spread great journalism far and wide!



Matt Karolian

2018 Nieman Fellow @ Harvard. I make things happen on the internet for The Boston Globe &