Likes and dislikes of curating Social Business Design magazine for Flipboard

Social Business Design magazine for Flipboard 18 Feb 2014
Social Business is such a nascent, deep and wide topic that I couldn't do my thinking or clients justice without reading a lot. Everyday. So it occurred to me that if I'm taking the time to do this, then it makes sense to take a few seconds more to act as a filter and pass on the best bits to others.

Social Business Design _ Flipboard magazineI began curating a Flipboard magazine at the tail end of 2013. Flipboard tells me that the resulting magazine, Social Business Design, currently contains 210 articles and has attracted 128 readers.

Here's what I like and what I don't like about the process. Perhaps the upsides might prompt you to curate one yourself, and perhaps the Flipboard team might take note of the downsides. They do listen – Flipboard CEO Mike McCue (@mmccue) has taken the time to respond to me via Twitter, as have several of his colleagues.

I like

Flipping

I like the simplicity. Drag the "flip it" bookmarklet from the Flipboard website to your browser's bookmarks bar and you're all set up. When I'm reading an article I decide to flip, I just click the bookmarklet and a little window appears, just like this:

Flipboard flipit

You can see in this particular instance that it's found 8 images from which I can select one to accompany the article, else if no images are suitable I can opt not to use one at all. My magazine is preselected with a big tick because it's the only one I curate, else you can pick the magazine(s) for which the article is suitable. And then I just click "Add". Simples. I don't tend to append a comment in the "What's interesting about this?" field.

Subscribers can view the magazine in their browser, or via the Flipboard app for iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry. And Flipboard really is a sticky app in my opinion. What's more, as a regular reader of a dozen different Flipboard magazines, Flipboard can learn what I'm into and suggest other magazines I might like.

Cross-posting

I can cross-post articles from other Flipboard magazines to Social Business Design, but I don't tend to do that much. Partly I guess because I've not found other magazines with quite the same focus, but I can see how this might be increasingly useful in the future.

The "front cover"

Lastly, the "front cover" of the magazine can easily be set to one of the images accompanying a recent article – an important step to give subscribers a visual clue in their app that new content is available. I originally mocked up the small image above to promote the availability of the magazine, but Flipboard now has a small widget available to show the magazine bedecked in its latest cover image. Like this:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

I don't like

The stuff Flipboard doesn't like

Flipboard doesn't like flipping PDFs, YouTube videos or Slideshare stacks. This is a fairly significant shortcoming, but one I can only assume the Flipboard techies are working on.

Image grabbing

Flipboard grabs quite a few images that are clearly, to the human at least, nothing to do with the article in question. They're ads, or visuals enticing web visitors to click to other content for example. I don't have a problem with this per se as it's rather difficult to program this out, but when Flipboard misses the main image altogether, that's frustrating. Here are two examples that fail at the time of writing:

8 years of Enterprise 2.0 on medium.com. That city skyline is completely ignored...

medium.com article

Changing the world of work. One human at a time. by Change Agents Worldwide. No image detected...

Change Agents Worldwide screengrab

No image thank you

Sometimes, when I've told Flipboard not to use one of the candidate images, it goes ahead and uses one anyway. That's a little annoying.

About the readership

Sometimes I'm told the name of a new subscriber as a status alert on my phone. And sometimes I'm not. Not sure why. And in the same vein, Flipboard doesn't provide me with any facility to see who is reading the magazine. I'm not saying that I need an email address because that would breach their users' privacy, but their Flipboard username would be interesting. Even better, and to Flipboard's advantage too no doubt, it should let me share my social networks with them so Flipboard can tell me which of my network is a subscriber. Nifty, and perhaps a little jab back at competitor Pulse now that it's part of the LinkedIn stable.

Overall, there's almost too little feedback to curators to keep them encouraged, if you know what I mean.

Does Flipboard rate my magazine?

Does Flipboard rate my magazine sufficiently to suggest it to those in its community it thinks might want to subscribe to it? I've no idea.

What exactly is a page flip?

My magazine has had 1,328 page flips so far, but I can find no definition of this metric. Is it a subscriber seeing the availability of an article in the app or browser but not clicking / touching to read it? Or does it need a click / touch? And does it include Flipboard users who are taking a look but haven't yet subscribed? Being a special adviser to the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Media, you can guess this annoys me!

Conclusion

My first blog post on this topic was back in April 2005. It wasn't called social news aggregation back then – in fact it didn't really exist at all – and I called the prospect myChannel. Flipboard launced at the end of 2010, effectively pioneering social news aggregation. And I enjoyed playing a part in pivoting Taptu from mobile search to social news aggregation back in the day.

In short, I enjoy curating a Flipboard magazine. I actually take it seriously. Half a dozen associates have told me they're subscribed and enjoy the variety of articles I bring to their attention, so that's all the social reinforcement I need for now. But Flipboard needs to address aspects of social capital (the value of the network), as perceivable by members of the network, sooner rather than later to maintain momentum.

7 thoughts on “Likes and dislikes of curating Social Business Design magazine for Flipboard

  1. Great post Philip and you echo much of my experience with my Flipboard magazine (http://sbpr.co/sbprnews).

    Ironically, knowing that you're both Mr Measurement and a Flipboard magazine publisher, I'd thought of asking you what a page flip meant. Seems like you're no wiser than me! And like you I'd really like to know a little more about my subscribers. I know anecdotally how much some of them like it, but that's because they like it so much they've told me. I'd like just a little more insight into the rest.

    The new widgets are OK, but I'd prefer a way of embedding it into another website.

    I've successfully flipped YouTube videos and even selected them as the cover image, so I'm not entirely clear what issues you've had.

    My other irritation is that you can't do everything from everywhere. There are certain things you can't do on the app, but can do on the website and vice versa.

    1. I'm subscribed to your magazine Stuart, not that you'd necessarily know that! :-)

      Your comment about YouTube videos prompted me to have another go. I went to a recent post of mine featuring a YouTube embed and a Slideshare (http://eulr.co/15xsdij) and no luck. I then opened the YouTube video in YouTube (ie, at the youtube.com domain) and hey presto, I get one image to pick when flipping it.

      I guess Flipboard has written the software then to pick the still, but not yet to do so for embeds.

      And thanks for reminding me of your last point. I went to the app to pick a new "front cover" but was left disappointed.

  2. Great blog post. I've been using Flipboard magazines since they were launched. Happy to answer some of your questions.

    "Cross-posting" is called "reflipping" on Flipboard. Similar to retweeting on Twitter.

    On YouTube videos, I see from your comments that you figured out how to flip them. Yes, you do need to do it directly from the YouTube account whether that's in-app or on desktop using the bookmarklet.

    On page flips, every time a reader flips over a page inside your magazine it counts as a page flip. No clicks necessary. So 1,328 page flips means your readers (in total) have flipped pages 1,328 times inside your magazine. This number includes every viewer, not only subscribers.

    "Does Flipboard rate my magazine sufficiently to suggest it to those in its community...?" -- Flipboard doesn't rate magazines per se, all users are important. I believe they share them at random. For more exposure, tweet it every Friday using the hashtag #FlipboardFriday. You can read more about that here: http://bit.ly/JcT0LK

    Also, this might help: #FlipboardChat on Twitter every Friday, currently at 10:30 am US Pacific / 1:30 pm US Eastern.

    I'll add my twitter link to my name here just in case if you have more questions.

    All the best with your magazine!

    1. Thanks for dropping by Aïda. You definitely appear to be the expert on Flipboard – 9151 articles flipped to 37 magazines certainly trumps my 218 to 1!

      (Saying that, I wonder if you're aware that your online profile has many of the traits of a sockpuppet.)

      Thanks for confirming the definition of a page flip. It would be useful to have a metric indicating the number of page clicks and, even better, the kinds of articles that attract clicks. That way I can take that into account when curating in future.

      I have to say I'm very disappointed to hear that Flipboard can do no better than effectively roll a dice when suggesting new subscriptions to its users. That doesn't bode well imho.

      Thanks again.

      1. Regarding my profile, it's intentionally as is to filter out nosey types from my circles. Be sure to verify any of that info I gave about page flips. This is the internet. ;)

        Regarding Flipboard, that's my belief which happens to counter your belief that they rate. The best way to find out is to contact them directly and ask. You could be correct, in which case I would learn something too.

  3. This week Flipboard acquired Zite, a company with an eponymous product that has, as part of the CNN stable, competed with the Flipboard product. Interestingly, Zite's technology makes up for some of the shortcomings discussed here, so it'll be interesting to watch how quickly the two stacks can be slammed together.

What do you think?...