Google Bulletin: What the Heck Is It?

There has been a flurry (or frenzy) of activity at Google My Business this year. A host of new tools and capabilities were rolled out over the course of 2017. Collectively they reflect the emphasis and investment that Google is making in local, as Mike Blumenthal pointed out on our webinar yesterday.

Today Google teased a new service called Bulletin. It’s an app intended to help people tell “local stories” (a broader category than “news”), “by capturing photos, video clips and text right from your phone, published straight to the web.” Right now Google is only making the closed beta available in Nashville, TN and Oakland, CA.

The company envisions this as a way to contribute “hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone.” Google puts specific emphasis on “inspiring stories that aren’t being told.”

Google hasn’t  indicated whether there will be a “Bulletin” site or network. It has said that stories will be distributed and discovered through “Google search, through social networks, or via links sent by email and messaging apps.”

So what is Google trying to do? And will it “work?”

Taking the second question first: Google has a global network of more than 50 million Local Guides who are contributing reviews, images and content (business information) to Google Maps. So it has already proven that it can crowdsource content at scale. Indeed, some of the same people could become local Bulletin contributors, assuming the program expands.

I’m not sure Google has a fully worked out strategy for Bulletin. One could see it as part of the larger effort to develop local content, which might then support Google Maps and other initiatives. Some of this content, for example, could show up in Google News under the Local tab.

There are those who will assert this is Google’s effort to develop a Nextdoor competitor. However, it doesn’t immediately appear to be one, but that’s not saying it couldn’t evolve into one.

Nextdoor began as a way for people to share information about local crime and lost pets. It has become a way to ask for local business recommendations and to sell or trade local stuff, a la Craigslist. Penetration is massive across the US; monetization is (to date) less successful. Nextdoor is likely to be acquired; it’s unlikely to go public or be able to survive as a public company — the advertising/revenue problem is too challenging.

By comparison, Google has no need to “monetize” this project. It has the luxury to put Bulletin out into the world and see what comes back. It can then decide whether and how to use the content.

What are your thoughts on what this is and why Google might be launching it?

2 Responses to “Google Bulletin: What the Heck Is It?”

  1. Tim McLain says:

    I’m stumped as to why Nextdoor has not created an API for adtech firms to run hyperlocal campaigns (see Digital Zips from MaxPoint) or a self-service advertising portal to allow local businesses to advertise directly. Their text and image ad formats are simple enough. The market needs a new, innovative player in the local space to drive adoption at the local level.

  2. Greg Sterling says:

    Would guess this kind of thing is on the whiteboard. SMBs do advertise, mostly realtors from my anecdotal observation. More and more national ads with geotargeting (or some perfunctory city mention).

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