Here’s what happens when you share a tip in the Breaking News app

Let’s say you see a big column of smoke nearby, so you tap the tip button followed by “fire” in the Breaking News app.

In just a few seconds, other Breaking News users in your vicinity can see the anonymous tip in the “nearby” tab. They can either tap the tip or the globe icon to see it plotted on a map:

(If you want to tip us about a story that isn’t near you, you can scroll to the bottom of the tipping screen and submit a link.)

At the same time, the tip also appears in front of our Breaking News editors working around the clock, 24 hours a day. We use tips as signals, searching social media and local news reports in the immediate area. We’ve discovered hundreds of stories, large and small, from your tips so far.

When our editors discover and publish a breaking story that originated from tips, they hit a “thank you” button in our publishing platform. The users who tipped the story receive a push notification like this one:

When users open the app, they’ll see the story they helped us find in the main “now” feed or the “nearby” feed.

The story also appears on partner sites MSN News and NBCNews.com. Since Breaking News is also monitored by many of the world’s largest news organizations — TV networks, wire services and newspapers — your tips can influence coverage around the globe.

So keep those tips coming!

Truth be told, most tips don’t result in a story, but every tip helps other Breaking News users near you avoid trouble spots. We’re also working on new features that will help us identify more stories from tips and reward tipsters for their help.

Remember, tips are no substitute for calling 911, and please keep yourself out of harms way. If you have any questions, please drop us a note.

PS. The tipping feature just won an Online Journalism Award for innovation, and we appreciate your help in making it such a valuable service for all.