Thursday, December 02, 2010

Flipboard's Big Update: This is an iPad Mag Done Right

Flipboard's Big Update: This is an iPad Mag Done Right

Flipboard, the iPad "social" magazine which launched to a barrage of press back in July, has just announced the addition of several more publishing partners, the first to test Flipboard's new framework called Flipboard Pages. This framework automatically converts traditional Web content into an iPad-friendly format, featuring full-screen, paginated, magazine-like pages.

When readers tap content from these publishers shared by friends on Twitter or Facebook within the Flipboard app, they're now taken to this new magazine-like reading experience instead of a traditional Web page. And for publishers, the result of the tap is the same as a Web hit on their end.

Flipboard Pages, however, isn't the only big news coming out of the company today.


About Flipboard Pages

The new media partners participating in the launch of Flipboard Pages are ABC News, All Things D, Bon Appetit, Lonely Planet, SB Nation, SF Gate, Uncrate and The Washington Post Magazine.

All publishers worked with Flipboard to create their own HTML5-based framework, so they each have their own look and feel. (HTML5 is the next version of HTML, the markup language of the Web. Although currently in development, its use has become so prevalent throughout the year, that we dubbed it one of 2010's top trends.)


The end result of these partnerships is unique, branded experiences for the publishers, but all housed within the overall framework of the Flipboard app itself.

For the end user, switching between the various custom formats isn't jarring because you don't flip from one publisher's content to the next. Instead, you "happen upon" the content by tapping a link shared by a friend on Facebook or Twitter, the social networks already integrated into Flipboard. Previously, tapping links would load up a traditional Web page - and that was far more jarring, as it took you out of the magazine experience altogether. Now, moving from social posts to the Web and back again feels like more seamless.

Other News: Ad Partnership, William R. Hearst Advising

Flipboard is also announcing a new ad partner, OMD, and a notable new advisor: William R. Hearst, a media industry veteran and Affiliated Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Buyers.

flipboard_before.PNGOMD will serve full-page ads from its clients including Pepsi, Gatorade, Infiniti, The CW Television Network, Showtime, Levi's, Dockers, Hilton Worldwide, GE, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Project (RED), and Charity Water.

Magazine readers will see the ads while browsing stories from Flipboard's partners during the advertising trial.

Compared With Other iPad Mags

As for how Flipboard compares to other companies launching iPad magazines of their own, we think Flipboard is closer to "getting it right" than the other ventures we've caught wind of in recent weeks.

For example, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is said to be launching an iPad-only newspaper (or news service?) in the near future and Richard Branson officially launched an iPad-only magazine called "Project" just this week. Both companies distribute (or will distribute) their content as locked-down subscription-based tablet applications. While both deliver "iPad-friendly" experiences, they're missing the point of the iPad - you don't have to reinvent the wheel and launch entirely new media publications, you just need to boldly rethink the user interfaces of existing ones.

flipboard_after.PNGIn doing so, why not render the content using Web technologies instead of downloading megabytes of media to the iPad's hard disk? (Well, perhaps those with Wi-Fi only iPads will disagree here - Flipboard currently offers only limited offline support. You can flip pages, but can't read articles.)

More recently, critics, such as those on tech news site GigaOm for example, called Branson's "Project" as "bloated and unfriendly" as the other magazine apps for iPad that are out there today. Many of these apps are confusing to use - you actually need a "how to" guide to get started. Flipboard is much easier. As the name implies, you just flip (swipe your finger across the screen).

Plus, Flipboard acknowledges a truth the others - all the others - do not: and that's the truth about how people go about getting their news today. Outside of a few publications read religiously, for the most part, news finds us via our friends. Flipboard makes Twitter and Facebook the jumping off point for accessing news, and the result is a news magazine we actually want to read.