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Twitter may soon roll out an alert feature to keep news junkies up to speed

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Twitter has conducting limited testing of breaking-news alerts for several months, but it seems the company is now trialing the feature more widely, suggesting it could be offered to all users before long.

For example, a number of Twitter users received a breaking news alert to their smartphone regarding Monday night’s Christmas market incident in Berlin in which at least 12 people died. Many users of the social media app noted that it was the first time to receive this style of alert. The pushed message prompts users to tap on it for more information. Doing so takes you to the app’s Moments section, which brings together curated tweets based around a single event.

The immediacy of Twitter means plenty of breaking news stories show up on the service before spreading to mainstream media outlets, which is one of the reasons the app is so popular with news junkies. However, the firehose nature of the platform can sometimes leave users confused as to the order and accuracy of early accounts of unfolding newsworthy incidents.

But Twitter’s breaking-news alert feature suggests it’s pushing ahead to build on its reputation for being the go-to app for people eager to keep up with news events from around the world.

Of course, news addicts will likely already have their smartphone configured to accept breaking news alerts from their favorite media outlet, so if Twitter does introduce the feature, it’ll need to persuade them that it offers the fastest, most accurate alerts. Not only that, it needs to show that tapping on the “more information” prompt will guarantee them valuable and accurate content related to the unfolding event. If it succeeds, it’ll have an effective way to increase user engagement with the app, pulling them in at times when they might not even have been using their handset

BuzzFeed said Twitter has confirmed it’s been trying out breaking news alerts “as part of a larger test notifying users about real-time content appearing on the platform.” In other words, the alerts might not always be about “hard” news, but may also focus on other areas of interest such as entertainment. Twitter is therefore using an algorithm to determine which users receive which alerts.

As we said at the start, the feature is still in a test phase, so could feasibly be scrapped. But as the company looks to further develop its presence in the news space, there’s a good chance it’ll be rolled out more widely in one form or another before too long.

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Trevor Mogg
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