A sleeping giant for news distribution has awoken.
Flipboard is now making it easier for any publisher to join the platform. On Tuesday, Flipboard released a new site that helps publishers sign up and manage their feeds on the app. It’s a way for any publisher to reach Flipboard’s audience of 100 million monthly active users.
That’s good news for any publisher since building an audience on Flipboard can be instantaneous. There’s less of a need to gain “likes” or follows as is the case on Facebook and Twitter. Flipboard curates stories into topic-based channels with a mix of algorithms and human editors — so any partner’s stories could be selected for top spots if Flipboard’s team deemed it worthy.
For Flipboard, the goal is for users to enjoy reading stories online at a time when some sites are plagued with poor ad experiences and other apps are burdened with fake news.
“There are good actors on the mobile web,” said Mike McCue, CEO and cofounder of Flipboard. “We’re finding the best of the mobile web and giving that to people.”
As part of Tuesday’s launch, Flipboard is rewarding partners that offer quality mobile sites. For now, Flipboard is hand selecting partners that will receive a special lightning bolt symbol on its app. Requirements include having a mobile site that loads in a second or less and no “aggressive pop-up ads.” Mashable is a launch partner.
Both of these updates are a big step for Flipboard as it tries to incentivize more publishers to contribute. Media outlets already must balance managing distribution across Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat, Apple News, and others.
But over its seven year history, Flipboard has grown into a competitive traffic source. Flipboard was the fourth most common referrer for mobile and tablet users and traffic nearly doubled from January to August, according to analytics company Parse.ly.
The company also released a major app redesign earlier this year.
Publishers have been approaching the company over the last year on ways to grow their reach, said Sarah Gallagher, head of publisher partnerships at Flipboard.
“They’re using Flipboard in some way shape or form and seeing traffic and not understanding why,” Gallagher said. “We don’t have a hard time starting conversations with publishers.”
Flipboard’s audience is 52 percent male and 48 percent female with 29 percent of its readers between 18 and 34 years old, 44 percent between 35 and 54, and 27 percent older than 55.
Flipboard still isn’t forcing publishers to put in much effort. They could sign up, link their RSS feed, and then hope that the traffic comes. For publishers, revenue is supplied by the site’s own ads or subscriptions. Flipboard generates revenue from ads between stories.
Despite opening the floodgates, Flipboard is still focused on curation.
The New York Times no longer participates in Facebook’s Instant Articles program, citing lack of success in converting readers to subscribers. But it has curated magazines on Flipboard.
“Publishers like the NYT may write an article about backpacking, but the chance of me seeing that article as an interested backpacker is low, because I’m probably going to see the stuff about Trump and other top news that they do,” McCue said. “This is a way for us to be sure we’re getting every publisher, every blog discovered when they should be.”
Despite opening the floodgates, Flipboard is still focused on curation. All publishers also go through a human-led vetting process. McCue likened the process to Apple’s App Store, where each sign-up is analyzed for meeting the company’s terms of service.
“We’re not going to allow adult content on the platform, as an example. Now that doesn’t mean that we’re censoring. There’s going to be right-wing and left-wing content,” McCue said.
Any publisher that abides by Flipboard’s terms of service is allowed to sign up, but not every member will have its content curated. Any publisher that the editorial team believes engages in “intentional deception” is not curated. Flipboard users can still see their stories by choosing to follow them, however.
The road ahead for Flipboard includes more app updates as well as a focus on reaching profitability. The business, supported by $210.5 million in venture capital funding to date, was cash-flow positive in February and is expected to stay that way starting in the first quarter of 2018. McCue didn’t rule out the potential for an initial public offering in the future.