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NewsWhip Spike, a tool for finding news stories trending on social media, has introduced a local element to its search function that shows stories with social traction in regions of the UK, US, Canada and Germany.

The software behind Spike, which already surfaces popular stories on various interest topics from news sites around the world, trawls through more than 1,000 news outlets and blogs in the UK to highlight stories that are being shared the most in different regions.

"Some of the stories that turn into the bigger social hits – the stories that get shared the most – start as a local story with a national resonance," Paul Quigley, founder and CEO of NewsWhip, told Journalism.co.uk.

In the US, the national debate on gun control recently featured Starbucks' decision to refuse service to customers carrying a firearm, said Quigley, a story that regularly featured local instances of individuals attempting to do so.

In the UK, the story of a Cumbrian police and crime commissioner claiming for chauffeur-driven travel in his expenses was initially broken by the Cumberland News and Star before reaching national outlets.

"All news starts local, with a local event, and it's more likely that in Manchester that's going to get picked up by the Manchester Evening News and it's going to get talked about in Manchester," said Quigley.

"So by using social signals you can bubble up some of the most important stories in each city – the ones that are more likely to go viral."

Stories are ranked by 'social velocity' how much and how fast it is trending on social media, categorised into time periods of the last hour, three hours, 12 hours or 24 hours.

The locales featured on Spike are chosen by regional importance or population density as "you need a metro market to be a certain size before you have much local press," Quigley said.

In the UK, the main urban centres – London, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool – are featured alongside nine specific geographic regions. The US section features 50 cities across the country; Canada has six; and Germany includes the main 14 administrative regions.

"At a high level we're trying to harness all of this sharing and tweeting activity into something that's useful for journalists and content makers by showing what the people formerly known as the audience are sharing and talking about," Quigley said.

The next step for NewsWhip's Spike platform will be to introduce a form of semantic analysis to the search function, Quigley said, to let users see "what's trending in really specific niches".

The local update to Spike launched in beta for existing users – including the Guardian, The Huffington Post, Boston.com and NewsCorp – on Monday (18 November). You can find more information on Spike in this Journalism.co.uk article.

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