The advent of the smartphone and tablet have changed the way magazine and newspaper publishers think about publishing their content- in fact, many subscriptions now include a complimentary digital version. However, sometimes content isn’t optimized for viewing on mobile devices and it can be cumbersome to have a separate application for each publication. Flipboard, first introduced in late 2010 and quickly named Apple’s iPad App of the Year, solves this and many other problems- and creates a host of new opportunities for marketers.
Flipboard is a free application that can be used on its own, but is intended to be connected with social networks. It aggregates news, photos, videos, and links from friends, connections, and curated news feeds and displays them in an aesthetically pleasing content-customized magazine-style layout. A quick flick on the screen flips the pages quickly and seamlessly. Flipboard also bridges the gap between social and news- though Facebook apps for reading and sharing news are gaining popularity and it’s easy to post a link on Twitter, Flipboard makes it far more appealing by turning links and media from a newsfeed to an attractive gallery-like experience and also displaying social updates alongside news features. A final version of Flipboard for Android was released on Friday in the US and today in China. Apps are also available for iPhone, Kindle Fire, and Nook.
Yesterday, the New York Times announced that its subscribers will be able to access content on Flipboard, apparently acknowledging that users are using social media as an alternative when browsing for news content. This is the first time users will be able to view Times articles on anything besides their website or proprietary applications- this is a tentative first step for the New York Times, but could be foreshadowing a more complete foray into the digital world. On the other side, Wired and the New Yorker have stopped their advertising partnership with Flipboard and now view it as a competitor. Some magazines also fear that subscribers will switch entirely from monthly publications to the application, but CondeNast owned magazines are embracing the app and selling ads to display with their content. One problem with this is that publishers who place ads directly in their content won’t know when their article and its accompanying advertisements are seen, so pricing and metrics for advertisers involves a lot of guesswork. Flipboard is, however, working to monetize the platform by making ads seamlessly integrated into the experience without being distracting. First of all, advertisements are limited to five per publication, so brands stand out. Said cofounder Mike McCue, “If you look at web pages today, they basically are battlegrounds between content and ads. The ads are competing for the reader’s interest…it’s a terrible experience…There’s the opportunity to approach this from a design point of view. If we lay out the content in a way that’s paginated…like what you see in magazines…follow some of the basic old world magazine designing principles and apply those to internet content, the advertising business model works.”
This is an exciting opportunity for marketers. Though traditional magazine advertisements are tried-and-true, it can be difficult to measure their efficacy and impressions. However, most current attempts at advertising in digital magazine editions are clumsy and poorly edited, rendering them useless. Integrating non-intrusive advertisements into a digital magazine will improve not only impressions, but sentiment- creating visually pleasing ads that don’t intrude on a user’s interaction with content and will be seen as an important part of the publication rather than a nuisance. Also, the power to click on a magazine-like ad and be directed straight to a purchase page will certainly change the way users shop. Flipboard perfectly marries the benefits of print and digital by creating a platform that renders advertising attractively and unobtrusively but still gives consumers power to purchase nearly instantly.