Flipboard expands local news coverage to reach 50 cities across US and Canada

In January, personalized news app Flipboard announced it was expanding into local news. From the new “Local” tab in the app, Flipboard users can now keep up with their local news publications, including newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, college news sites and even blogs. Today, Flipboard says it’s expanded the local news feature to cover 50 U.S. and Canadian metros, up from the 23 it offered at launch.

Among the new additions are areas such as San Antonio, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Hartford, Conn.; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wis.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis, Tenn.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Omaha, Neb.; Montréal, Quebec; Ottawa, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta; and Calgary, Alberta.

Users in these markets will now be able to track local stories of interest, like politics, real estate, traffic, dining, sports, weather, coronavirus and elections, among other general news.

In addition, Flipboard is updating the Local news feature to allow users to personalize their local feed for the first time by choosing from subtopics available in their city.

From a new “passion picker,” users can select their city then add topics like their favorite local sports team, the name of a nearby town or broader topics like local politics or real estate. By doing so, users can personalize their own Local feed to only show those topics they care about — for one person, it could be just local coronavirus news. Another may want to track that plus election news and sports, and so on.

Flipboard also says it’s beginning to test localized notifications in three markets: Houston, Chicago and Philadelphia. The test aims to determine what sort of push notifications users find most helpful, in terms of breaking news.

The company’s news aggregation app is used by 145 million users per month, but that figure has remained stagnant over the past couple of years. By offering readers easier access to local news, Flipboard aims to give struggling local newsrooms an alternative way to reach their audience at no cost, while also growing the Flipboard user base by targeting people hungry for local news.

However, the Flipboard app doesn’t currently provide access to paywalled Local news content — users are instead sent to the news publishers’ site, where they either get access to a select number of free articles or can log in as a subscriber. This can get a little kludgy and may send readers out of Flipboard to their local news publisher’s own app.

With the launch of Local news earlier this year, Flipboard said it would also be able to recommend local stories to users based on their IP address, but wasn’t tracking a precise location. Meanwhile, Flipboard advertisers can continue to target users by interest — including, now, local city metros as an “interest.”

“We launched our Local initiative at the start of 2020 and we’ll continue to expand this program over the course of the year,” said Marci McCue, vice president of content and communications at Flipboard, in a statement about the expansion. “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.”