Google experiments in local news with an app called Bulletin

Google is testing a tool called Bulletin that would allow anyone to publish local news stories and events, according to a report from Slate, which Google later confirmed. The company described Bulletin as a way for others to communicate information of local interest, like bookstore readings, high school sporting events, or information about street closures, for example.

Slate found a website for creating Bulletin posts was already up-and-running, but was still in “early access mode.” The service is currently being piloted in Nashville and in Oakland, Calif., the webpage states. On the site, Google explains that Bulletin is a lightweight app for telling stories, capturing photos and videoclips from your phone, and then publishing them straight to the web – without having to create a blog or build a website yourself. “If you are comfortable taking photos or sending messages, you can create a Bulletin story!,” the website reads. At a launch event in Nashville, a Google spokesperson also said that Google wanted to work with local news organizations to help them find and publish some of the stories posted to Bulletin, while giving the author credit, according to Slate.
The move to delve into local news would have Google competing with other services where people already share news about what’s happening locally. Specifically, people tend to tweet or live stream when news is breaking – like if they witness an accident, a fire, a fight, a police chase, or something else of a more urgent and distressing nature. Meanwhile, if they’re trying to promote a local event – like a book signing, to use Google’s example – it’s likely that they’ll post that to the business’s Facebook Page, where it can then be discovered through the Page’s fans and surfaced in Facebook’s Local app. And if Google aims to more directly compete with local news resources like small-town print or online publishers or Patch, it could have a tougher road. Hyperlocal news has been difficult to monetize, and those who have made it work aren’t likely interested in shifting their limited time and energy elsewhere. If anything, Bulletin sounds like another attempt from Google to establish itself in the social space, albeit with a more boring focus on “news and information.” But if Google wants a piece of this kind of action, it should have just bought Twitter years ago. Courtesy: Tech Crunch

WhatsApp officially launches its app for businesses in select markets

WhatsApp today officially launched its new WhatsApp Business app in select markets, including Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S., ahead of its planned worldwide rollout. The addition of business profiles and new messaging tools aimed at business customers is part of the company’s broader plan to generate revenue by charging larger enterprises for advanced tools to communicate with customers on the platform now used by over a billion people worldwide.

The WhatsApp Business app is the initial entry point in this market. Aimed at smaller businesses, the free app – Android-only for now – helps companies better connect with their customers and establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service. Essentially, it’s the WhatsApp version of a Facebook Page. The company had previously announced the app’s arrival, and begun verifying business accounts as part of its WhatsApp Business pilot program back in September 2017. Verified accounts were given a green checkmark as a means of demonstrating their authenticity. With the new WhatsApp Business app arriving today, small companies can set up their WhatsApp Business profiles by filling out information like a business description, email, address and website. WhatsApp says people will know when they’re talking to a business because these accounts will be listed as “Business Accounts.” Over time, some of these will become “Confirmed Accounts,” after WhatsApp verifies the account phone number it registered with matches the business phone number. Once established on the WhatsApp network, businesses can then use a series of tools provided by the app, like smart messaging tools that offer similar technology as what you’d find today in Facebook Messenger. For example, the app offers “quick replies” that provide fast answers to customers’ frequently asked questions; “greeting messages” that introduce customers to the business; and “away messages,” that let customers know you’re busy.
Businesses will also be able to access messaging statistics, like number of messages read, and they can send and receive messages from the desktop via WhatsApp Web. While businesses will need to use this new app to communicate with customers, for the general WhatsApp user, there’s no change. They’ll be able to message businesses but can control their experience by blocking numbers and businesses, as well as report spam. In addition, businesses will only be able to contact people who provided their phone number and agreed to receive messages from the business, the company had previously said. The Business app will later be joined by an enterprise solution aimed at large businesses with a global customer base – like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks, WhatsApp had said last fall. It didn’t announce any news regarding this solution today, but in the past the company said it would charge for these enterprise tools. Presumably, they’ll be built on top of the current WhatsApp Business core product.
The company also indicated today how critical it is to address the needs of businesses on its service, which now reaches 1.3 billion users. According to data it cited from Morning Consult’s research, over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil said that WhatsApp helps them communicate with customers and grow their businesses. WhatsApp declined to say how many businesses are today active on its app, when asked. At launch, the WhatsApp Business is available as a free download on Google Play in supported markets. WhatsApp didn’t offer an ETA on when the Business app would rollout to worldwide markets beyond “the coming weeks,” or when an iOS version would arrive. However, the company did confirm to us that – while it prioritized Android after researching with businesses where WhatsApp is used prominently – it does plan to support other platforms in the future. Courtesy: TechCrunch…!