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breakingnewsmileyI remember seeing a Twitter update from Breaking News this past March about the Buffalo Bills releasing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The first thought in my head was probably similar to many others who weren’t Bills fans and/or really didn’t care about what Ryan Fitzpatrick was doing: This is breaking news?

Funny enough, that’s exactly the problem Seattle-based Breaking News is trying to fix with the most recent update to its platform.

“One of the biggest complaints in journalism these days is, ‘That’s not breaking news!’ Breaking News general manager Cory Bergman told us. “So now our users can control the news they want to see in real time — down to a very granular level.”

While mainly known for its Twitter account that has more than six million followers, Breaking News’ dozen or so journalists across Seattle, New York, London and Portland aggregate substantially more content via mobile apps and 

It’s those apps that have been revamped — iOS and web first, Android in a few weeks — with new designs and some interesting features.

Breaking News’ new logo (top) differs quite a bit from its original.

Breaking News, which is owned by NBC News but still refers to itself a “standalone startup,” has built in three new buttons: “Alert,” “Mute,” and “Whoa!”

Bergman wrote that the “Alert” feature, which is only on iOS for now, is the app’s “most addictive part.” It’s pretty explanatory: Pick a topic, person or place you’re interested in — “Boeing,” “NFL football,” or “Seattle,” for example — and you’ll receive a push notification every time news breaks.

“Mute,” helps you wade through the “news,” that isn’t really news to you. By tapping the mute icon next to a topic or story, you can hide updates regarding that subject — unless it’s universally breaking news.

“The mute feature is also very addictive once you start using it,” said Bergman, a longtime Seattleite who founded hyperlocal news network NextDoorMedia and also sold the Lost Remote blog last summer. “I’ve muted Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, among others, and it felt liberating.”

Finally, the “Whoa!” button is unique. It is somewhat of a replacement for a Facebook “like,” in that it lets an update accumulate a numerical reaction from the masses. The stories with the most “Whoa!” clicks will surface as the most surprising stories of the day.

breakingnewswhoa“Whoa!” was born after the Breaking News team realized that “liking” a story sometimes doesn’t make sense.

“We’ve never been a fan of a “like” button next to a breaking news story,” Bergman wrote. “Do you really “like” that earthquake? Social popularity — be it likes or retweets — is a poor metric for breaking news.”

These updates reminds me of recent changes that San Francisco-based Circa made to its app, promising users that it was redefining how we consume breaking news.

But Bergman is quick to point out that while Circa is about storytelling, Breaking News is strictly for those immediate bite-sized updates.

“This is for breaking news about something, not a story about something,” Bergman said of his service. “Very different.”

If you are still confused about these changes, not to worry — Arthur Roberts is here to help:

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