MASTERCLASSING

Brand Strategy

David Murphy

Marci McCue, head of marketing and communications at Flipboard, outlines the curated content platform's approach to mobile.

The year 2010 marked significant developments in how people consumed content. Although the web had come a long way, no one could fully appreciate the coming impact mobile devices would have on the way we discovered, shared and consumed content.

At the time, websites felt cluttered with articles and ads competing for attention, and the advent of social media added a new layer to content discovery, where people scrolled through streams of comments, images or links, making it hard to keep up and find the important stories.

This complex and cluttered environment lost the beauty and pacing that print could bring to a story. Flipboard was created to bring it all together and make it beautiful and touchable – offering a curated platform where people, publishers and advertisers all had a distinct space to breathe and engage in the world. The pivotal release of the iPad later that year aligned perfectly with our vision.

Mobile-first
When Flipboard launched, we didn’t have a product on the web. We saw that smartphones and tablets would become the primary content consumption devices. We launched on the iPad in July 2010 and by the end of the year, we were on the iPhone, and soon after, started development for Android.

That transition from tablet to smartphone marked an important evolution in the Flipboard app: building for a hand-held experience instead of the larger iPad meant that, instead of flipping left to right, the magazine would flip up (a much easier motion with your thumb while holding the phone).

And, with the phone, there’s a new use case – people want to check Flipboard when they’re standing in line or walking to the train. So, where on the tablet people generally took their time and browsed topics, on the phone we needed to offer users quick, easy access to the best stuff. So we created a new ‘highlights’ feed called Cover Stories – now called the ‘For You’ feed – that enabled users to flip through some of the best stories from everything they were following.

Recognising that different mobile audiences have different mindsets when using our app or website became part of our DNA. Today, we deliver a package of news for people at 7am as they get ready for the day, we share long reads on Sundays, and if you’re flipping through Style we may surface the recent Red Carpet images so you can indulge in a few moments of fashion.

A platform for everyone
There are three things we’ve learned in our journey so far. First, mobile is instantly global. While we didn’t build Flipboard in other languages at launch, almost immediately people around the world started downloading it and customizing it with their local language sources. Apps today should consider the global use case even if they are only in one market, because their users are everywhere.

Second, it’s important to have guiding principles. When building an experience, it’s important to question how it’s advancing the company’s values. For us, we had several ways to test this. In the early days we’d ask ourselves: are we delivering something that makes people feel it’s a special experience, is there a WOW factor? Does the new release make us feel ‘appy’ like everyone else? Does it uphold our belief in surfacing great journalism and getting people to the stories that matter to them? Is it something my mom would want to use?

Lastly, mobile-first matters. For brands that want to reach mobile audiences, the options are still very fragmented, not at all consistent, and often low quality. The best path to reaching people on mobile is to be among the apps users are willing to go to when it comes to investing in themselves.

What’s unique about Flipboard is that it’s not just a place to keep up. We’ve created a curation platform to advance people lives, publishers’ business and brands’ voice. Editors selecting sources and stories, algorithms indexing and surfacing curated content and the people sharing their own collections are all features designed to give our audiences around the world the best way to stay informed or get inspired to engage in the world.