Google Bulletin: Hyperlocal news, Nextdoor competitor or both?

Google is testing a new local service called Bulletin. The company describes it as a “lightweight app for telling a story by capturing photos, video clips and text right from your phone, published straight to the web.”

It’s currently only available in Nashville, Tennessee, and Oakland, California. Google envisions this as a way to contribute “hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone.” Google puts emphasis on “inspiring stories that aren’t being told.”

Distribution will be through “Google search, through social networks, or via links sent by email and messaging apps.” This is yet another local initiative for Google, and the question is, what does the company hope to accomplish?

Google has developed a global network of more than 50 million Local Guides, who are regularly contributing local information and business content. The company has thus proven it can crowdsource content for local communities and businesses on a massive scale.

Rather than full-blown “community news,” my inference is that these are quick hits with images. But I’m sure Google will learn a great deal through the test, and we’ll probably see some longer-form content and video. Spam, inappropriate or self-promotional content will have to be monitored and filtered. But I’m sure Google already has a strategy in place.

Nextdoor is the only really comparable thing to this that’s operating today. Local news network Patch still exists, spun out of AOL in 2014, but it operates in a kind of anonymous homeostasis, relying primarily on SEO for exposure.

Nextdoor, by comparison, has massive penetration and usage across the US. However, Bulletin doesn’t appear to be a direct Nextdoor competitor and may not even be a destination but a way for Google to generate new types of local content that could be distributed across multiple channels.

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