person reading a Flipboard magazine on a tablet
PHOTO: Johan Larsson

When I graduated from college, the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter had yet to be invented. I got my news via the newspaper, local TV, cable news or weekly magazines (gasp!). 

These days, I get my news on my smartphone, primarily in apps like Twitter and Facebook. 

I read newspapers (online, of course) and watch cable news for the commentary and analysis — not for the news itself.

It’s been an eventful year for the major US social networking companies, as executives from Facebook and Twitter have been called to appear in front of Congress. These companies have been blamed for facilitating the spread of fake news and the Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.


Related Article: How to Deal With the Troubling Reality of Fake News

The Social Network Algorithms

At the heart of the matter is “the algorithm,” complex software that determines how, where and if content appears in users’ feeds. While the algorithms are proprietary and opaque, we do know they favor posts with high engagement, in the form of likes, comments and shares.

A sensational news story with high engagement can cause algorithms to elevate the story’s prominence, without determining whether it’s true or factual.

In response to the recent uproar, some users deleted apps like Facebook and Twitter, while others questioned their effectiveness as a news source.

Flipboard: A Growing Source of Referral Traffic

Created in 2010, Flipboard delivers personalized news and content for any interest. Flipboard has over 145 million monthly active users and is available on the web or from any app store.

According to a dashboard of external referrals on the Parse.ly network of digital publishers, Flipboard is the fifth highest external referrer, close behind Twitter and Google News and further behind the top two, Google and Facebook.

A Digiday article noted that Time Inc. UK started putting content from all its brands on the Flipboard platform in April 2017. According to the article, “Now, the company said Flipboard is its fourth-biggest referrer behind Google, Facebook and Twitter, making up between 1 and 2 percent of total traffic across titles.”

While still small in proportion to Google and Facebook, publishers are seeing Flipboard as a growing source of referral traffic. Why is that? Perhaps it’s because users consider it an antidote to the social network algorithms.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Grow Your Content Marketing Reach Via Flipboard

Flipboard: 'Technology Company with Media Values'

In an article titled "How Our News Philosophy Supports the Truth," Gabriella Schwarz, managing editor at Flipboard, writes, "The journey Flipboard embarked on was an effort to make a technology company with media values, to combine cutting-edge engineering with the highest journalistic standards." Christel van der Boom, who leads communications at Flipboard added, "At its core, Flipboard is a curated content experience with journalistic principles — it is editorially guided and algorithmically generated."

While the algorithms are the ultimate attention brokers on the social network sites, Flipboard takes a hybrid approach in which human judgment counterbalances the algorithm. At Flipboard, content seen by users is the result of a close collaboration among the editorial, product, engineering and design teams.

According to van der Boom, "When our algorithm magnifies a story — by including it in a topic feed for instance — those sources have been vetted by our editors." On social networks, a fake news story can go viral; on Flipboard, it’s first reviewed by an editorial team, who apply journalistic standards to determine its authenticity.

Related Article: Why Social Media Is So Addictive (and Why Marketers Should Care)

Types of Curation on Flipboard

Mia Quagliarello, head of curation and community at Flipboard, published an article about the four types of curation on Flipboard:

  1. Curating to build expertise.
  2. Curating to build community.
  3. Curating as a personal resource.
  4. Curating to distribute your own content.

Quagliarello's team at Flipboard not only reviews the content that’s distributed within Flipboard, they hand-curate experiences as well. My favorite magazine is “10 for Today,” a daily collection of 10 articles hand-picked by Quagliarello and her team. Users can access the collection as a magazine within Flipboard and subscribe via email. It comes out seven days a week and features high-quality, longform journalism on timely topics.

Another interesting magazine is “Left, Right & Center,” which the Flipboard curation team describes as “One issue: A take from the left, from the right and from the center.”

Related Article: Blend Content Creation and Curation to Create Your Brand's Unique Voice

Creative Use Cases for Flipboard

Janette Speyer, partner at Hot Ice Media and Flipboard marketing specialist, once used Flipboard to manage, monitor and track a contest. According to Speyer, “We ran this contest on Instagram. Participants had to cook a dish with a vegan cheese. We used Flipboard to track the dishes and to pick the winner.” In addition to being used to judge submissions, the Flipboard magazine served as the visual record of the contest, with the winning entry gracing the cover of the magazine.

About the Flipboard magazine, Speyer said, "Not only is it inspiring to look through, but it is also shareable and portable. The contestants really enjoyed seeing their masterpieces in a publication."

I learned to think outside the box with my own use of Flipboard. I have one magazine that features the content I curate in my email newsletter. In another, I showcase recent books that I’ve read. I loved reading the book “The Best American Sports Writing 2017,” so I looked up the selections in a search engine and placed the individual articles in a magazine. In other words, I took an existing work of curation and gave it new life.

The Flipboard Community

Flipboard has an active and engaging community of users, who are very passionate about the service. Tawanna B. Smith, coach and digital strategist, co-hosts the popular Twitter chat, #FlipBizChat, with Janette Speyer.

In addition to the Twitter chat, community members share each other’s magazines on Twitter via the hashtag #FlipboardFriday. Twitter users can also use the hashtag #MagsWeLove, which is monitored by the Flipboard editorial team.

According to Smith, "On most platforms, marketers will tell you to pick one message, one niche, or else you'll confuse people. Whereas with Flipboard, I can share multiple messages across magazines to show what matters to me."