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“More relevant and important than ever”: Flipboard, with 145M users, doubles down on local news

Popular content aggregator Flipboard has expanded its local news coverage feature to 15 new cities in the US and Canada. These include Kansas City, Mo.; Hartford, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; and Montréal, Quebec.

Understanding the decisions state and local governments make and their impact on the community is not only important, but gives people a greater connection to their local leaders and the media. 

Marci McCue, VP, Content and Communications, Flipboard

The deep local coverage feature can be found in the Flipboard Explore tab under Local. It was launched in January across 23 North American metropolitan areas. Another 12 metro areas were added in March. The latest additions take the tally to 50 cities.

Source: PR Newswire

“Report about the situation on the ground”

The platform works with local publishers and content creators in each city to offer a curated experience based on the best sources. They include broadcasters and bloggers, as well as national media outlets that cover local stories. 

Each local feed features coverage of news, politics, real estate, traffic, dining, sports and weather, coronavirus and elections. For example, people who follow Kansas City will see stories from The Kansas City Star, Patch Kansas City, Kansas City The Call, and The Pitch, as well as local radio and TV stations, according to the announcement.

Flipboard uses machine learning algorithms to classify content. The app then recommends local stories to readers according to their preferences and IP address. It helps publishers and broadcasters drive additional traffic to their stories—local, national and even international. This also allows Flipboard’s advertisers to target users by interest and city. However, the company has said it does not track precise location. 

Flipboard began speeding up the expansion of its local news initiative in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading across the US. The platform launched a news hub focused on the COVID-19 outbreak. “With the rapid spread of COVID-19, local newsrooms provide the most relevant information for where their readers live as they closely monitor and report about the situation on the ground, such as local ordinances and testing stations,” according to a statement.

“Reach relevant audiences”

It also partnered with Patch and ProPublica to include coverage on COVID-19 and the upcoming 2020 presidential election. 

“As a provider of local news to communities all across the US, it is essential for Patch to partner with platforms to reach relevant audiences,” said Warren St. John, President of Patch. 

Our local coronavirus coverage consists of almost 200 stories per day and this integration with Flipboard’s local initiative will increase discovery of this important information.

Warren St. John, President, Patch

The latest release also enables Flipboard users to personalize their local feed by selecting from sub-topics related to their metro area; the company calls it “passion picker.” It allows users to select from topic tags such as the names of sports teams, nearby towns and topics like local politics, and real estate. So for example, one user can have a feed that includes updates about local sports teams, while another can have one focusing on local coronavirus news.

The company will also begin testing localized notifications beginning with testing in Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia. So users in these cities following local news on their Flipboard account will receive local breaking news notifications on their phone. Flipboard intends to identify the kind of notifications users find most helpful.

“Mobile-first aggregators present a growth story”

“We launched our Local initiative at the start of 2020 and we’ll continue to expand this program over the course of the year,” says McCue. “It seems more relevant and important than ever as our communities grapple with the impact of a pandemic, racial injustice and unemployment making the need for reliable, local information more critical than ever.”

Local news publishers have been hit hard by the pandemic due to declining ad revenues. However, many have seen record increases in traffic as well as subscriptions. Flipboard, which has 145M users per month, sends readers directly to publishers’ sites. This gives them the opportunity to attract and nurture these users, by offering a select number of articles for free and encouraging them to subscribe for more. 

Mobile-first aggregators present a growth story — the referral traffic they send to publishers has doubled in the past two years.

Nick Lioudis, Content Marketing Manager, Chartbeat

To get their content on Flipboard, publishers need to create an account and use the Flipboard bookmarklet to start curating content into the platform. They can also submit their RSS feed to Flipboard. It will be analyzed and indexed by AI so that readers can discover the content based on topics they follow. 

“Different way to engage with and expand their audience”

Joe Hyrkin, CEO of digital publishing platform Issuu, told Publishing Insider that he was quite optimistic about the possibilities to monetize local news and enthusiast content. For as the pandemic keeps people confined to their homes and neighborhoods they will cultivate hobbies and interests while also seeking information about what’s happening in their communities. 

“Local publishing businesses are starting to realize the content still matters, but the ways in which we’ve distributed it and monetized it is going to evolve,” he said. “In the same way that people have demonstrated a total acceptance of paying for music and video, we’re going to start to see opportunities for clever businesses to leverage that around publishing, too.”

For participating publishers, being available on Flipboard will give them a different way to engage with and expand their audience, rather than relying on other traditional advertising and marketing opportunities, including social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, and digital ads.

Sarah Perez, Reporter, TechCrunch

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