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Beacons send local news alerts to mobile phones in Google-backed trial aimed at engaging youth

By Freddy Mayhew

Hyper-local news stories are being sent to people’s mobile phones in Manchester as part of a Google-backed trial.

Ten miniature beacons have been attached to buildings at sites across the city, including Albert Square (pictured), that automatically send news alerts via Bluetooth to mobiles within a range of 100m.

Tech start-up Like No Other is behind the scheme, which received funding to get off the ground thanks to Google’s €150m Digital News Initiative.

The project is working in partnership with the Manchester Evening News, and organisations including the police and council.

Stuart Goulden, founder of Like No Other, told The Times: “This is aimed at getting people re-engaged in local news, especially younger people who’ve never bought their local newspaper and are always staring at their phones.

“If you can bring stories to their screen about things that are happening right there, on the street they’re walking on, or at their local park, they’re more likely to take notice.

“Alongside news, sports and culture, we’re particularly interested in giving a voice to those who need it most, be they independent businesses or creatives, good causes and communities, arts and cultural events, and everything in between.

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“If this is successful, we want to bring it to other cities across the UK.”

Users do not need to download an app to receive the news alerts, but must have Google Chrome installed and change their phone settings to receive updates from the “physical web”.

According to The Times, they will receive breaking news from their immediate vicinity, as well as police updates and appeals. Alerts could include match scores or information about nearby cultural events.

Adverts are not permitted in the trial period, but the service could be used by businesses to send them out to phones. The notifications stop once the phone is outside the beacon’s range or users change their settings.

The Digital News Initiative has also awarded funding to Press Association for its Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR) project that will use a team of reporters and computer software to automatically produce 30,000 stories a month for local media.

PA editor Peter Clifton told Press Gazette the agency was “certainly not replacing reporters with robots” in response to concerns from the industry.

Picture: Pixabay

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