FLIPBOARD LATEST UPDATE DEMOCRATIZES CONTENT CURATION ON THE SERVICE, INTRODUCES SEARCH, AND PROVIDES INTEGRATION WITH ETSY.
With 50 million users, Flipboard, the social news magazine available on the iPhone and iPad, has become a dominant player in content curation. Now, with competition in the space quickly heating up, Flipboard is launching what it calls customizable "mini magazines."
Before, the Flipboard app would surface relevant content to your iPhone and iPad from a number of sources: by tapping into your social feeds; by allowing you to follow publishing partners such as Fast Company and The New York Times; and by offering a slew of topic sections--politics, tech, and so forth--internally curated by Flipboard's editors and algorithms. But now, Flipboard is opening the floodgates and enabling any user to create a collection of media. The new version of Flipboard, says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue,
"Flipboard allows anyone to effectively build their own magazine on Flipboard. They can pull together content under any topic they're passionate about--[and share] other articles, photos, videos, music--pretty much anything."
The upgrade arrives only weeks after Facebook ushered out its redesigned news feed, as LinkedIn and Twitter continue to ramp up their content discovery and editorial efforts, and as Yahoo just agreed to acquire Summly for millions of dollars. How is Flipboard weathering the storm? Since Google recently announced plans to shut down Google Reader, the startup has already gained more than a million new users.
"I don't know how many of those are because of Google Reader, but we've certainly seen a spike."
It's simple to start your own magazine on Flipboard. Just hit the app's new + button to create a digital rag, give it a title and description, and select a category. From there, as you browse Flipboard, it's easy to add an article or YouTube video or photo to your own magazine; a cover image will automatically be created for your custom magazine, too. Other Flipboard users can subscribe to your magazine, and you'll get notifications for when a user comments on a piece of content and also will receive stats such as how many page flips your magazine is seeing.
"A community starts to build around this content."
There's no limit to what Flipboard magazines can focus on. They're not designed to only be about news. McCue, for example, has curated magazines on topics ranging from space to Steve Jobs. He has one-off magazines containing albums of photos he took while traveling; a magazine featuring books he recently read, complete with appropriate links to Amazon and iTunes; and he even expects event-specific magazines to form like, say, a Flipboard magazine about music at the 2013 Coachella festival.
It's a new twist on the tried and true blogging formula. Magazines on Flipboard are simply blogs in a neatly packaged form--a broadcast platform that takes advantage of Flipboard's smart UI and curation tools. In that sense, the new version of Flipboard takes its cues from Tumblr and Pinterest: Users can share music, Flickr images, tweets, and products for other users to buy. Publishing partners can take advantage of this platform, too, by launching topic-specific verticals. Fast Company, for example, will have separate Flipboard feeds focusing on our Most Innovative Companies. The platform allows content creators of all levels to dive into incredibly niche topics.
But if the secret sauce of Flipboard has been its content curation, there's always the chance that such an open service could dilute the Flipboard brand and its high-quality content. But McCue is wary of such issues. McCue says.
"Anytime you do something like this, you're going to have some people who create really awesome stuff and some people who don't really create particularly awesome stuff. You'll have a mix. The same tools we use to find great content, we'll use to find great curators, and then we'll surface those to our readers."
The startup is also launching a content search engine to help users sift through this onslaught of new content. Flipboard search lets readers find content shared on Flipboard, and discovery new content by topic, user, or hashtag. Mccue says.
"We're not indexing the entire Internet like Google; we're indexing just what's being shared on Flipboard, so it's a very high-quality index."
While the update signals a significant shift for Flipboard, it doesn't mean the company has strayed from its original focus of working with publishing partners. Today, for example, the company also partnered with Etsy to bring its blog and products to Flipboard readers. Flipboard will now be integrated with Etsy's shopping cart, meaning users can buy items directly from Flipboard, which will bring the company a revenue share. And perhaps this is Flipboard's end game (ecommerce).
Like Pinterest, Flipboard will now feature crowdsourced content, buoyed by publishing partners and power users. It will allows users to share and browse through photos, videos, songs, news, and recommended products. With more eyeballs comes more advertising revenue for Flipboard, and with more content, comes more opportunity for revenue sharing. As McCue says,
"Shopping on Flipboard is going to be really cool."
But social as Flipboard magazines are becoming, McCue is hesitant to say the service is transforming into a social network. McCue says.
"We're less about being a social network, and more about being a content network. I think there's always going to a little overlap with some of things Flipboard and others are doing. Facebook will be always be about your friends; Twitter is about following influencers; LinkedIn is about your professional career. While Flipboard may do some similar things, for the most part, [we're] about great content."
COMMENTARY: I have not profiled Flipboard before, because I thought it was just another Pinterest copycat, but it is turning out to be more than this. Come to think of it, I could use Flipboard to publish my own PBT Consulting Magazine to reach those 50 million users visiting Flipboard each month. Unfortunately, I do not own an Apple mobile device, so I hope that Flipboard adds a Flipboard app for Android, and they better do it soon, rather than later.
I took the liberty to see if I could verify those 50 million users that Flipboard claims it has, but Flipboard hasn't given Quantcast permission to track its traffic. Alexa.com provided the following "uncertified" numbers. If Alexa's estimates are correct, then Flipboard's traffic stats and demographics are as follows:
- Users are predominantly male, between the ages of 25-34 and are well educated (graduate degrees).
- Flipboard's traffic rank is #19,754 globally and #11,578 in the U.S.
- Flipboard's monthly reach (unique visitors per month) during 2013 has been stable through mid-March when it spiked, but quickly declined to normal monthly reach levels.
- Flipboard's monthly pageviews has been stable through mid-March when it spiked, but quickly declined to normal levels, then spiked again just recently.
- Flipboard users have been averaging about 1.8 daily page views per user for the period January through March 2013.
- Flipboard users have been aveaging about 2.09 minutes per day per user for the period January through March 2013.
To be frank, I am not overly impressed with Flipboard's traffic stats (Alexa.com only). Although Flipboard claims 50 million users, they are not spending a lot of time on the site and or viewing a lot of content. Users are predominatly male, but no numbers are provided. This is the exact opposite of Pinterest, who are predominantly female, view four times more pages per user and spend four times more time on Pinterest. It looks like Flipboard has some work to do in order to churn more page views and more time from those 50 million users before it can become a viable alterntive to other social networks with ecommerce capabilities.
Here's an interesting infographic about Flipboard.
Courtesy of an article dated March 26, 2013 appearing in Fast Company