News junkies, Facebook’s next standalone app may focus on breaking news alerts

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News junkies, listen up. Facebook is believed to be working on a mobile app that sends breaking news alerts to users.

A report from Business Insider, which claims to have seen screenshots of the app, said users will be able to select their favorite news outlets from a list of partnering publications, and then add topics, or “stations”, relating to the kinds of stories they’d like to be notified about.

Then, when an event happens that coincides with the user’s pre-selected interests, they’ll receive an alert to their phone.

The alert would be short, no more than 100 characters, and include a link to an article on that publication’s website, though of course, if the news is really fresh such an article may take some time to build.

If you use this new app to select several media organizations, presumably the alert will come only from the first one to break the news, thereby avoiding the annoying situation of multiple incoming alerts for the same story.

The app is reportedly already being tested by a number of companies, suggesting it might not be too long before Facebook rolls it out.

Of course, news addicts will probably already have their smartphone set up to receive breaking stories from their favorite news app, so Facebook’s challenge will be to get these people to switch off alerts from that app in favor of its own.

Facebook and competing services are showing an increasing interest in news as  a way to keep users on their sites for longer. The social networking giant recently signed up a number of high-profile partners for its Instant Articles feature that aims to brings fast-loading, richer news articles direct to its pages. For the partners, the BBC and NY Times among them, it means more eyes on its content.

Twitter, too, has recently started testing a new tab within its app designed specifically for trending stories, while it’s also known to be working on a news-focused tool codenamed Project Lightning. Snapchat has also taken an interest in news with the launch at the start of the year of its Discover feature.

Certainly, with a recent study showing that an increasing number of American adults are using Facebook (and Twitter) for their news fix, it seems like a no-brainer for the social networking giant to utilize its experience in the news sphere by launching a standalone app designed to communicate breaking news events.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said last year he had a plan to release more standalone apps as part of a “three-year initiative” geared toward “building all kinds of new experiences for sharing,” which will of course also provide the company with all kinds of new ways to help it generate revenue through ads.

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