I don’t need to think about the reasons that it could be beneficial to Flipboard to provide locally-focused news and information for its customers. Professional news outlets that are dedicated to small towns have been declining for a long time.
For me, the problem has a direct impact on me My home is the Bay Area suburb that–though far from being rural or tiny, is an eminent local-news desert. (It was once home to my own paper, however, I haven’t found any evidence of its existence in the years after 1993.)
In the last year, COVID-19 has added to the importance of local news, like information on restrictions on retail sales related to this pandemic. There are also natural disasters as well as other regional crises that in their own way produce news that is both important as well as local.
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In reality, the entire local-news initiative was born out of the need to ensure that its algorithms were able to handle hurricane-related stories. Harvey in the year 2017. This initiative “grew into ensuring there were other cities more than or less secure in the same way, which led to the launch of our local-news initiative last year,” says Flipboard Data Quality Analyst Marty Rose.
In bringing together news and information from multiple news sources Flipboard will fill the ever-growing gaps in local media coverage. Alongside the AI technology, it employs to automatically categorize stories it gathers and the company claims its new Flipboard TV features that began in February 2020, will be useful since it collects information produced by local television stations.
When the company increased its list of local markets to encompass anything from a few dozen to over 1,000, it looked at data like Nielsen’s list of the 210 U.S. media markets (known by the name of Designated Marketing Areas, or DMAs) and the 392 metropolitan statistical regions identified as metropolitan statistical areas by the U.S. Office of Management and Budgets.
It also ensured that the feeds were able to pick relevant content, which is more complex than the area in which they were released.
“Say that we’ve got a feed from Syracuse, New York,” adds Rose. “It is the publisher who is based in Syracuse however, there could include articles on Syracuse that could originate from a newspaper such as that of the LA Times.”
The company’s decision to let users choose from a selection of local feeds is a reflection of the difficulties of figuring out the areas nearby they are concerned about. Anyone who is shown this Syracuse feed “may not realize there’s one for Utica and is located in the state of New York,” says Rose.
“But perhaps that’s something you’re interested in due to the fact that you visit Utica a few times per month, or live somewhere in between. Being able to conduct a geo-radius of your location and locate the local feeds we’ve got helps increase the amount of discovery.”
What’s the deal with Flipboard? It’s all about raw engagement. Anything that can make people more likely to stay using the app is beneficial for its business model based on advertising. It’s also beneficial for users to consider sharing their location to Flipboard because Flipboard can utilize the information to target advertisements.
Gottesman insists that Flipboard doesn’t store or sell information about locations and requires only the “Zip-code-level” concept of where you’re located to provide local information: “We’re not Google Maps. We don’t have to tell you the exact location of your road.” He adds that the company doesn’t do this solely out of selfish motives and that there’s more to be revealed in the future.
“The release we released in the past year, you could consider phase one,” the man says. “This is what I’d refer to as Phase two and. It’s a long-term investment. Flipboard is aware of how crucial local content is for the user, democratic society, and the political body. We’ll continue to invest in it.”