Flipboard Offering Publishers Magazine-Like iPad Feed Experience

By Steve Smith

How ironic that a start-up that aggregates and formats simple social media and RSS feeds onto the iPad is helping magazines look more magazine-like on the tablet platform. But the buzz-fueled aggregation app Flipboard is doing exactly that with inaugural partners Bon Appétit, Washington Post Magazine and Lonely Planet. In an effort to ‘iPadify’ shared content from major media partners, Flipboard is creating a more sophisticated layout framework for articles that are fed into its app. Flipboard offers a unique system that it calls a ‘social magazine,’ which turns RSS, Twitter and Facebook feeds into neatly laid out illustrated pages that literally flip to advance and pop-up fuller article excerpts in a window with accompanying image. The new partnership with media companies takes that elegance to the next level. When a user double taps on an article from a partner like Bon Appétit or ABC News, the reader gets a multi-page rendition of the article in a magazine-like layout, including full page ads.

“We believe the timeless principles of print can enhance the social media experience, not only to make content more discoverable but also to make it easier to read,” says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue. Flipboard had been rumored to be in conversations with media companies about ways to help them monetize the feeds that Flipboard uses to populate its product. Flipboard is working with ad agency OMD to test the full page ads that occupy these enhanced articles. Initial sponsors include Pepsi, Gatorade, Infiniti, Showtime and Levi’s.

In our use of the featured Flipboard pages, the system did produce very readable and engaging page designs. The excerpts click through to a richer environment that is closer to the typical magazine app than it is to a Web site, to which Flipbook pages often link. The full-page ads generally have been well-tuned to the touch and feel strengths of the platform. Best of all, Flipboard does all of this while retaining its signature snappiness. The app has always done a very good job of caching the most likely next pages a user will tap and so creating a more seamless flipping experience.

Overall, Flipboard appears to be making good on its earlier promise to give something back to the media partners on whose content its app relies. This is an interesting new way to syndicate content into a touch-based tablet ecosystem that lets publishers keep a handle on the ways in which their content is presented, and keep their fingers in the revenue stream it might produce.