All publishers face a constant challenge: build your audience numbers. For most publications, a large audience exists; the problem is reaching them.
Enter Flipboard, a news aggregator that curates content into interest-based collections. Started in 2010 (and an early hit on the iPad), the Flipboard service offers a highly designed news experience to its more than 100 million active monthly users via its desktop site and iOS and Android apps.
The “flip” in Flipboard refers to the service’s beautifully smooth user interface, in which readers “flip” effortlessly through articles, magazines, and videos in collections of content curated by users, publishers and Flipboard editors.
Flipboard says its audience breaks down as “one-third Millennial, one-third Gen-X, and one-third Boomer,” with an even split between men and women across 196 countries and in more than 20 languages.
The vast majority of those users access Flipboard on mobile devices, where the service is very polished, attractive and fast. There’s nothing wrong with browsing Flipboard on a desktop computer, either, but it truly shines on mobile devices, tablets specifically. And at the moment, Flipboard is free, which helps explain its vast user base.
Publishers are “verified, hand-selected, and vetted for quality” by Flipboard editors, and at this time, there’s no charge to join as a publisher.
It’s simple for publishers to get set up. To get started, create a publisher account, set up an avatar and description, and submit an RSS feed. Then, Flipboard reviews publisher feeds, both for quality and technical requirements. (We’ve had trouble if the RSS feed code isn’t perfect, but it’s fairly simple to debug.)
Once approved, a publisher can start creating “magazines.” Magazines are simply collections of content, typically related by topic. They can be created by users, publishers, and Flipboard editors, be collaborative, public or private. [Ed note: Am I the only one who finds the use of the term “magazine” confusing? Why not just call them collections or packages instead of something that already exists in the real world and is confusingly similar but still different from a Flipboard magazine? This smells of an early terminology decision that the company now has to live with. /End finicky rant.] Flipboard recommends building a magazine for each major topic/section on your website.
Although you assign topics to your content yourself, Flipboard also indexes and re-uses content with its topics engine, expanding how and where your content appears throughout Flipboard.
Unlike Apple News, when a user views a story on Flipboard, they are sent to the publisher’s website, so it’s a legitimate driver of site traffic, not a replacement for it.
On desktop, the article opens in a new tab; on mobile devices, the story is displayed in a browser within Flipboard. Or, if the publisher provides content in Google’s AMP format, Flipboard shows that version of the story for faster loading.
The result is that Flipboard traffic, rather than living within Flipboard, is recorded by your regular website analytics tool. And of course, as visitors land on your website, you get a chance to entice them to use your regular navigation to browse further.
Publishers whose mobile sites load in one second or less without intrusive ads are promoted into Flipboard’s RED (Reader Enhanced Display) Bolt program, and identified to users with red lightning bolt icon.
Speaking of ads, Flipboard is funded by them but careful about them. They only appear between stories as the user browses, and ads are just as lightweight and fast to load as content. The service also offers Flipboard for Brands to help companies connect with interested consumers.
Flipboard isn’t doing anything especially unique. There are many other news aggregation services out there. But they do it extremely well, in a snazzy and easy-to-use interface. Plus: Free! and all you need is an RSS feed! It’s definitely worth getting involved with Flipboard, especially if you’ve already done the work to create mobile/AMP pages and RSS feeds.