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Flipboard just announced a huge expansion: Local news now offered for more than 1,000 cities

Published Mar 2nd, 2021 9:00AM EST
Flipboard app
Image: Flipboard

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  • The Flipboard app is rolling out a major expansion starting today — the addition of local news content from more than 1,000 cities and towns.
  • Flipboard offered local news content from just 60 metro areas as recently as October.
  • Flipboard’s updated new local content will be available by downloading the latest version of the app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

The Flipboard app

is getting a big expansion today, with local news coverage now available in more than 1,000 cities and towns — compared to just 60 metro areas back in October.

The company behind the combination news aggregation app that also acts as a social magazine said that, starting today, Flipboard users in the US and Canada who update to the latest version of the app will be prompted to enable their location. Once they do, they’ll see up to 15 relevant regional and local topics, and after the user selects cities and topics of interest, Flipboard will add those topics to the “Following” tab. The latest stories from the relevant local news sources will then show up in the user’s “For You” feed.

This update continues a steady rollout over the past 12 months or so of major new updates to the app, including the Storyboard format and Flipboard TV as well as curated packages of content from experts. And, of course, the expansion of local news content comes at a milestone moment in the US — it was one year ago this month that, for many of us, the coronavirus pandemic first became real, with measures including the first lockdowns and other public health restrictions first being put into place.

The presidential election, vaccines, coronavirus updates, the recent winter storms, Texas’ power grid pretty much collapsing — we’ve all been glued to our screens for news updates in the months since then. And this is what Flipboard CEO Mike McCue said in the new announcement is the reason for the expansion. “The recent crisis in Texas has again shown the importance of local news sources, both to provide citizens with reliable information about the situation and where to go for help as well as to hold leaders accountable.

“With this endeavor, we want to make local news and information easier to discover and access by bringing together disparate sources of information in one place, organized by location.”

The important thing to know about Flipbard’s new announcement: The app says it now provides access to local content sources and stories to more than 1,000 cities, towns, and communities in the United States and Canada, including all of Nielsen’s 210 Designated Market Area (DMA) regions. Once a user is on the newest version of the Flipboard app, it matches their location with local stories that include everything from political updates to COVID-19 news, as well as weather forecasts, sports highlights, and dining recommendations based on proximity.

Pulling this off required, to say the least, the culmination of a massive data and research project. Flipboard says that combining its content curation expertise with GPS technology and linguistic and media research made this possible. That included Flipboard’s data quality team curating local sources based on, for example, the nearly 400 MSAs defined by the US Office of Management and Budget, plus a list of 384 cities with populations above 100,000. Behind the scenes, Flipboard added video from local TV stations to Flipboard TV four months ago that laid the groundwork for this latest update to the app.

Speaking of Flipboard TV, it was one of the many new additions and updates to the app that rolled out last year. 2020 saw Flipboard test a big UX change, in the form of experimenting with a vertical scroll, as well as the launch of Storyboards — a new curation product that acts as a kind of complement to the “magazines” that you can build within the app. Add Flipboard TV to that list. It’s a free, ad-supported piece of the overall Flipboard experience, for which Flipboard signed up a bevy of new publishers and independent creators who will keep the Flipboard TV tab you see within the app packed with content.

Flipboard’s deeper embrace of news publishers, and especially local news publishers, looks night-and-day different compared to the kind of scorched-earth, more brute-force approach of a social giant like Facebook, which has apparently decided to swing the pendulum of its corporate priorities back toward news content for the time being. Indeed, the world’s biggest social network is continuing to expand its Facebook News product, with the latest announcement being that it’s signed up a group of German news partners — but not Axel Springer, which publishes the best-selling newspaper in the country.

Unlike Flipboard, though, Facebook doesn’t really seem to be all-in on Facebook News right now, since the only platform it can be accessed on is a smartphone. If I want to check out any Facebook News content on my MacBook Air or iPad, I’m out of luck. Flipboard, on the other hand, provides a similarly smooth, easy-to-use news consumption experience no matter what platform the user is on.

In terms of the new local news announcement, meanwhile, Flipboard data quality analyst Marty Rose adds some additional detail: “Our algorithms are designed to understand what each piece of content, even video, is about. Additionally, we’ve built a service that connects GPS data to content based on proximity, further supporting local publishers to reach their audience. The overlapping maps of geographic areas form the basis for the association between location and coverage.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.