Talking tech since 2003

I recently sat down with Eugene Wei, Head of Product at Flipboard, to see what the company has been up to the past few months.  In late April we heard that Flipboard had 56 million users and 1 million user created magazines, I’m told the latest numbers are now at 90 million users and 4 million user created magazines.  Flipboard originally launched the magazines feature in version 2.0 which launched for iOS back in March, it subsequently launched magazines on Android in May and on the web in July.

“Magazine was the first step in the curation road,” said Mr. Wei.  The company has plans to evolve the toolset to create more organized and customized magazines, and even include features like private co-curation.  In its current state, magazines on Flipboard can be curated by either one person or a group of people who have been given access by the magazines creator.  One of the nice things about having co-curators is that your magazine may feature content that you actually haven’t read or seen before, whereas with a single curator that obviously isn’t the case.

At a rate of approximately 800,000 magazines being created every month, it’s clear that many Flipboard users are liking the feature, which is great for Flipboard as the company’s mission is to become the world’s best personal magazine.  Flipboard currently has hundreds of publishing partners who work directly with the company to put their content directly in the app, and if the 90 million readers weren’t enough of a reason, perhaps the great experience provided by Flipboard is.

Examples of ads seen on Flipboard.

The app’s design is simple and straightforward, if you have read a magazine before then you can read content in Flipboard.  One thing I found really interesting is the way Flipboard monetizes.  The company has some of the most beautiful ads in their app — full page ads from Gucci mixed in with content, just like a real magazine — ads you would never see on any website. “The money for the ads comes directly from the company’s branding budgets instead of a company’s online advertising budget,” said Christel van der Boom, Communications at Flipboard.  This is great for Flipboard because branding budgets are typically much larger.

But it’s not only that, both Eugene and Christel made sure to point out that print ads are really effective, which is why they are expensive.  If you think about that for a second, just look at how many times over the years Samsung has used print ads to challenge Apple or how Motorola bought print ads in major newspapers this past summer to promote the Moto X.  This is premium advertising and Flipboard wants to bring it into the digital/mobile age.  One of the key ways they are able to re-create this “magazine feel” is by utilizing pagination, which is the process of dividing content into discrete pages.

Bringing these print ads into the digital age is easier in apps than on the web, in large part because people have different expectations on the web when browsing and reading content.  It’s also not as intimate an experience on the web, on a tablet you’re touching the screen, whereas on the web you’re likely using a mouse/trackpad and a keyboard.  Of course Flipboard needs to figure out a way to make it work on the web as well as in the app and I have a feeling this is something they are working on. While Mr. Wei didn’t comment on it specifically, his excitement indicated to me that something is in the works.  I was also told the company is working on other additional improvements for the web version to bring it more up to snuff with the app.

If you haven’t tried Flipboard yet, I recommend you download it.

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