1 million whoas and counting

We’ve tallied up the total number of “whoas” on Breaking News so far — our equivalent of the “like” button — and we were surprised to discover we recently surpassed the 1 million mark.  In fact, we’re at 1,348,072 whoas and growing at an accelerating rate.

We created the whoa button as a way for users to express their surprise with a big or unexpected story.  After all, it’s awkward to tap a “like” or “favorite” button on most breaking stories, and the word “whoa!” is a common reaction (just do a Twitter search). 

At any time in the app or BreakingNews.com, you can see the most surprising updates, photos and videos over the last few hours, powered by users hitting the whoa button. 

Given the high-speed nature of Breaking News, we discovered that users begin reacting within a few seconds after an update is published.  Our team can assess the velocity of a story in very early stages, and we’ve even wired the data into our publishing platform so we can make smarter editorial decisions.

So which updates and stories have attracted the most whoas since we launched the feature?  We’ve compiled a list:

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How local news organizations can give their breaking stories a boost

For the last few years, Breaking News has elevated big local stories to a national and international audience.  Now the new Breaking News app is automatically surfacing partner news tweets to people near breaking stories.  This is another way for local news organizations to drive traffic, social sharing and SEO juice to original breaking stories. Nearly 400 news organizations are partners with Breaking News.

Here’s how it works. First, your news organization’s Twitter account must be whitelisted into Breaking News (just drop us a note and we’ll wire it in).  Then whenever you tweet about a story that’s breaking at a location, include the location name and #breaking (or #breakingnews) in the tweet.  Moments later, it will appear in the “nearby” feed to Breaking News users who are near the story. A Seattle example:

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(If the tweet carries a link, that link will appear as well.)

Keep in mind this is designed for stories that are breaking at a specific location, not a local news story about a location — two different types of stories.  For the new nearby feed, the best location names are cities and towns:

This tweet appeared in the Breaking News app to people who are near East Windsor.  In some cases, our platform also recognizes major place names:

This update appeared to people near Barr Lake, which is a state park (not a town) in Colorado.  The more location information you can provide, the better — without looking awkward to the people who live there, of course.

As before, our editors are watching incoming partner tweets for original breaking stories with regional or national interest.  Those stories, if selected, appear in the main Breaking News feed and potentially on @breakingnews and our other social feeds.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, and keep those tweets coming!

(post by @corybe)

Breaking News near you: no longer science fiction

The new Breaking News app for iPhone/iPad is here just in time for iOS 8.  Beyond a bevy of new iOS 8 additions, it includes a groundbreaking new feature.

In a first for a mobile app, you can see news breaking near you, wherever you go.  Tap the “nearby” tab and you’ll see real-time updates posted by our editors as well as automatically-updating breaking news tweets from our local partners.

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We’ve tested the nearby feature with several road trips over the last few months, including a U.S. cross-country jaunt.  It works internationally, too.  

The range is set at 100 miles by default, which means you’ll see breaking stories within 100 miles of your location in the nearby feed.  But you can adjust the range to adapt to your geography (above right).  Tap the map icon in the nearby feed, and you’ll see a red circle around your location.  Tap the range icon, and you can move the slider from 100 miles all the way down to a single mile.  

In dense urban areas, 5 miles may be optimal, and you could see several breaking stories a day.  If you’re in a rural area, even if it’s zoomed out to 100 miles, you may not see a single update; breaking news tends to concentrate in more populated areas.  We’re already working on improvements to the feed, which you’ll see in the weeks to come. (Please let us know if you see any issues by dropping us a note.)

Our nearby feed is a natural complement to proximity alerts, which we launched earlier this year.  Just as editor alerts are triggered when big news breaks around the globe, proximity alerts trigger when big news breaks near you.   For both the nearby feed and proximity alerts to work, you’ll need to opt into sharing your location. It’s entirely anonymous — even to us — and we’re not saving or sharing your locations.  We respect your privacy.

New iOS 8 features

Our new update is optimized for two new iOS 8 capabilities: today widget and interactive notifications.  

Swipe down on your lock screen, scroll down and tap the new “edit” button.  You can add a real-time Breaking News widget (left below) that displays the latest update, latest nearby update (if you’re sharing your location) and trending topics.  It’s a quick way to get updates on what’s happening without opening the app.

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Interactive notifications (above right) enable you to react to an alert straight from the notification itself.  Just swipe a notification to the left in your lock screen.  When you receive an editor alert in iOS 8, you can add the topic to your watchlist — so you can monitor subsequent updates — or share it with a single tap.  When you receive a topic alert that you’ve already configured in your watchlist, you can share or whoa the story instantly.

We’ve also made a lot of snazzy design improvements and bug fixes, thanks to your feedback.  Keep it coming!

News partner tips

Over 300 news partners tip us with their original breaking stories over Twitter, the first and largest Twitter-based network of its kind.  Now whenever a local news partner sends a #breaking tip with a location name — that’s the key — we’ll automatically surface the tweet to people nearby, amplifying the partner’s coverage and driving more traffic to the source.  

After all, the best local news coverage comes from local news organizations, and Twitter is the best way to share it.  Breaking News boosts great local coverage to wider audiences, including people visiting a local market.  To learn more about becoming a news partner or optimizing your tweets for Breaking News, please visit here or send us a note.

(Post by @corybe)

Announcing new hires

We’re excited to announce three talented additions to the growing Breaking News team: Andy Boyle, Tricia McDermott and Alex Swan.

Alex Swan (@boldbigflank) has joined our Seattle team as a backend developer. In his spare time, he’s a mobile game developer (give Hyper Tiles a try after a couple cups of coffee), and he always enjoys a good hackathon or startup weekend.

Tricia McDermott (@Triciamcd718) is our new deputy managing editor based in NYC. She joins us from Yahoo News where she worked on social discovery, breaking news and mobile apps.  Prior to that, she was senior managing editor of CBSNews.com.

Andy Boyle (@andymboyle) is joining us as a full-stack developer from the Chicago Tribune’s news apps team.  At the Trib, Andy worked on such cool projects as the Chicagoland Sirens app.  A frequent speaker in journalism circles, Andy’s also a comedian.

Follow ‘em on Twitter and say hello!

(by @corybe)

New Android app debuts with proximity alerts, tablet-friendly design and more

We’ve just released a big update to the Breaking News Android app with a powerful feature that’s a first for a mobile app: proximity alerts.  When a big story breaks near your location, we’ll send you an alert.

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Proximity alerts are reserved for larger stories: significant earthquakes, tornadoes, evacuations, mass shootings, major fires, public health alerts and more. Our team of trusted journalists make real-time decisions on which geographic area — from as narrow as a neighborhood to wide as a country — should receive an alert.  

It works internationally, and it will follow you as you travel — an invaluable resource even if you don’t use the app for anything else. Proximity alerts also work on Android Wear out of the box, so when a big story breaks near you, your watch will warn you.

As Fast Company wrote about our new feature, “Geolocated news is going to change the news business.”

Engaging new design

The updated app also includes a new tablet-friendly design with a long list of improvements including larger inline photos and videos, infinite scroll, faster search, improved map view and easy “tab” navigation.  We created a separate “Whoa” tab for the most surprising stories, powered by our users in real time. 

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We also made it easier to monitor your favorite topics for the latest breaking news with a new “watchlist” tab — just tap the watchlist icon to add a topic to the list.  For example, here’s my watchlist (above right), which includes the 2014 elections and my hometown of Ferndale, CA.

Tap the alert icon next to a topic to turn on notifications.  In my case, I receive a push alert whenever significant news breaks about NBC (which owns Breaking News), media, Twitter, Facebook and cybersecurity.

With over 40,000 topics in the system — just search for them on the watchlist screen — you can create a powerful tool to monitor breaking news that’s important to you. Unlike Google Alerts, we notify you instantly when news breaks about a topic instead of providing a delayed list of keyword mentions.

Breaking News is the only service that tells you immediately when significant news breaks about a topic, guided by editors you can trust.

Making breaking news matter again

With so many news organizations screaming for your attention, it seems like red “breaking news” banners are a permanent fixture on TV sets and pesky push alerts are the new normal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We even made a video about it:

The new Breaking News app is the fastest way to get the facts for the stories that matter most to you.  As always, please don’t hesitate to drop us a note with feedback, and stay tuned for more features and improvements in the weeks to come.

You can download the new Android app here — or iOS here.

(Post by @corybe)

Get Breaking News on your watch

If you’re thinking about buying an Android Wear watch, your Breaking News app will pair with it perfectly out of the box.

We’ve been playing with the LG G watch, which just shipped earlier this month. After pairing it with an Android phone running the Breaking News app, all our favorite custom alerts appear without any additional setup.

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When an alert comes in, just glance and you’re done. Our short alerts are extremely portable — no need to open it on your phone unless you’re digging for more details. It’s the fastest and easiest way to stay caught up on the news that matters to you.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be launching “proximity alerts" in our Android app, which will work on Android Wear watches, too. So when big news breaks near your location, your watch will warn you. Science fiction? Not for long.