Flip Skateboard

There’s no doubt that print newspapers are losing popularity and sales as online news consumption takes off in the form of websites, smartphone apps, and social media platforms. In fact, according to a recent study by Pew, over half of Americans get their news digitally, topping both newspapers and radio.

As a communications major, I’ve downloaded and deleted half-a-dozen subpar iPhone newsreaders in an attempt to find an easy-to-use substitute for an actual newspaper. That’s why when I first came across the demo of Facebook’s new iPhone application I thought I’d accidentally clicked the wrong video. What I saw looked exactly like an app I’d started using religiously after trying out many different newsreaders in the Appstore: Flipboard.Though first impressions of Facebook’s news-focused app, Paper, were generally positive after its unveiling on January 30, 2014, critics noticed that the app looked suspiciously similar to Flipboard, which has been around since 2010. Featuring the same intuitive gesture controls and graphics I had come to know and love about Flipboard, Paper has been accused of “killing Flipboard” on numerous sites due to its superior range of outreach and branding.

The Flipside of Flipboard

Unfortunately for Paper, Flipboard offers more features that may be more desirable in the smartphone market. Here’s a breakdown comparison of each newsreader’s features:

Flipboard’s Features:

  • Option to add all your social feeds to the newsreader
  • Bookmark articles for later
  • Optional push notifications for breaking news
  • Allows users & brands to curate magazines
  • Intuitive gesture controls
  • Great graphics and organization
  • Curates credible news articles from many different sources

Facebook Paper’s Features:

  • Same graphics & organization as Flipboard
  • Same intuitive gesture controls as Flipboard
  • Only adds your Facebook feed to the newsreader
  • More focused integrating high resolution photos with articles and visual storytelling
  • Better video integration
  • Share news you found interesting & discover what your friends are reading

While Facebook makes it easier to interact with your friends while reading the news, it doesn’t leave room for the integration of your other social feeds or brand-curated magazines. It does, however, showcase photos and videos in a way that Flipboard currently does not.

A Board for Branding

FlipBoard allows companies to create exclusive content and gain readership, while creating some serious revenue through native advertising.

Flipboard marketing executive Marci McCue told GigaOM recently that brands are really taking off with this option to advertise natively through subscription-based content on Flipboard. The picture to the left shows an article posted in the Levi’s feed, showcasing the retailer’s newest collection through photos and text. Each article links to the Levi’s website so that readers can buy their clothing.

Other companies like Cisco use the company feed a bit differently, aggregating articles from around the web instead of writing exclusive content. In any case, Flipboard’s brand magazines are taking off, giving brands a way to amplify their ecommerce while providing consumers with valuable content.

While skeptics doubted the success of Flipboard’s magazine add-ons at first, the feature has been widely successful since it was debuted in 2013. According to McCue, the top performing magazines like Levi’s see 10 to 20 percent of readers like their content so much that they subscribe to the brand’s Flipboard magazine. Gaining subscribers on Flipboard is a powerful way to for companies to target genuinely interested consumers.

Flipboard’s Fate

If Paper wasn’t an app made by Facebook, it wouldn’t be putting Flipboard’s success in jeopardy at all. But, due to Paper’s superior outreach, Flipboard might just become another hidden gem in the Appstore.


This post was first published by Blake Snelling on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.