Google’s Local News For Local People

Google is testing a new app called Bulletin, which encourages users to “be the voice of your community.”

“Bulletin is an app for contributing hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone (…) makes it effortless to put a spotlight on inspiring stories that aren’t being told.

“Bulletin is a free, lightweight app for telling a story by capturing photos, videoclips and text right from your phone, published straight to the web (without having to create a blog or build a website). If you are comfortable taking photos or sending messages, you can create a Bulletin story!

“Bulletin is currently in a limited pilot, available in Nashville, TN and Oakland, CA.”

A Google spokeswoman told Slate: “People everywhere want to know what is going on in their own backyard at a very local level, ranging from local bookstore readings to high school sporting events to information about local street closures.”

Slate reports: “It sounds like a super-lightweight content management system, aimed at amateur journalists or anyone else who wants to live-blog a news event or report a news story in a way that has a chance to reach a broad audience. Examples from the presentation included “extraordinary volunteers,” “high school sports,” “weather events,” “civic meetings,” and “social justice,” among others. An app screenshot on the Google Bulletin site shows a post with the headline, “Winter storm floods river, wipes out Nelson Road.””

Google says it’ll be working with local news organisations who may want to publish Bulletin posts.

Google clearly doesn’t want to see Facebook dominate local news. Facebook is trialling a “Today” feature in some US cities, which combines local news, upcoming events and local discussions. It’s also upping the percentage of local news stories in its news feed, having concluded that local information is better for community well-being than national and international news.

It’ll be interesting to see how this works. Our guess is many would be delighted to have a local news app that brought together events and breaking stories from their neighbourhood. For many users, this sort of information is a no-brainer. On the other hand, Facebook already has a lot of community pages created by locals where crime, charity and traffic stories are shared. And if citizens want to know what’s keeping traffic blocked on their street for an hour, they can look up their location on Twitter, where someone is sure to be posting observations.

Still: It’s an important vote of confidence in local news.

unsplash-logoLora Ohanessian