Flipboard: game-changer or passing fad?
12 March 2011, 12.30pm
4 / 5
A great interviewer makes so much difference to a panel, as proven by Kara Swisher of AllThingsD interviewing Flipboard founder Mike McCue. He’s at the intersection of publishing and social media, integrating both and making online content beautiful again. “It’s the real-time principles of the web married to the timeless principles of print… the rhythm of storytelling, layout, typography has not made its way to the web yet,” said McCue.
• Some publishers don’t what to be on the journey with you, points out Swisher. “We wanted to build something inherently friendly to publishers.,” he said, explaining that the pitch is to help publishers make their content shine on the web. “Banners compete for attention, for real estate - it makes the entire web experience feel clunky. The content and the advertising doesn’t have room to breathe.”
• “To be a viable publisher in this new world you have to think about how your content is going to map to social real-time experience,” said McCue. He used National Geographic as an example, and said they should have a Twitter list of explorers trekking right now in the North Pole and taking photos with their camera phones, teamed with the beautifully produced and rendered articles from print. That encourages a deeper bond between the journalists, photojournalists and reader.
• Flipboard has raised $10.5m from Kleiner and Index, but are they benefitting from a frothy market? “Facebook and Twitter… there’s real business value happening there It’s not like in the later 90s where it was all hype and no revenue.” These are legitimate business with lofty valuations. “There are few companies in the world that you could legitimately say are changing the world, but Facebook and Twitter are. That has implications in government, in changing social relationships - we are living in a culminating time where the stuff we talked about in the 90s is finally coming true.”
• There was a great moment when McCue demonstrated how Instagram is being used by Flipboard users to send supportive messages to people in Japan; Instagram doesn’t support text so users are drawing or writing messages and then sending screen shots to Instagram.
• “I love working with Apple… ” Ripples of amusement in the room. “I’m a big believer in what Apple is doing with the tablet and we weren’t going to launch until they did that. I have no inside information but wouldn’t be surprised if Apple did their own newstand similar to iBooks… My biorhythms are attached to where we are in the app store charts…” Kara Swisher responds: “The classiest, fascist company in America.”
• McCue is on the board of Twitter, so what does he think of the company’s decision yesterday to restrict APIs that let external developers build Twitter clients. APIs help grow the overall ecosystem and help a company flourish in a way that it couldn’t do itself, but they have to understand how the ecosystem is evolving. “There will continue to be other clients that are better at other elements, but Twitter wants to make sure the APIs are not being used as a way of creating replica or competitor services, or those that take tweets but don’t have a RT button.”
• Buying something is an emotional decision, said McCue. “I’m a believer in the mystery of advertising in Vogue magazine where you can’t turn the dress around 360 degrees - the second you make it so I can see every angle and zoom in to the fabric - it takes the interest out of buying.” Flipboard, McCue admitted, has zero revenues but the ads will come; 92% of ad spend is still offline, so there’s pleny of room to beautify ads too. As for funding, Swisher offered some reassurance: “There’s not enough rat holes to stuff all the money from Silicon Valley down at the moment.”