Thought Leadership
Flipboard on the Lost Art of Great Storytelling

nicole-mccormack-flipboard

Nicole McCormack
Head of Advertising Strategy
Flipboard

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Flipboard is one of the most prolific brands in the digital & mobile content industries, having pioneered the mobile social magazine back in 2010. How has the product, and advertising offering, evolved since the genesis of the company?

We started the company with a big vision: Great stories move the world forward by educating, inspiring, and rallying people around their passions. We believe we can provide a platform for these great stories to thrive and achieve maximum impact in a mobile, social world.

Since the launch of Flipboard in 2010, we’ve been executing on this vision. For instance, we’ve made Flipboard available on multiple platforms (smartphones and tablets running iOS, Android or Windows as the Web) and in more than 25 languages. We also added ways people can use Flipboard: we expanded Flipboard so anyone can curate magazines, sharing stories, images and videos around topics they care about, and last year we added 34,000 topics. Topics are filled with stories, videos and images being shared on Flipboard and curated into any of the more than 25 million magazines made by readers.

Brand advertising has been part of the vision from the start, as we were always inspired by print, where an ad is part of the experience and used for brand building. The first ad unit we introduced was the full-page magazine-like ad in 2011 and since then we’ve added two native advertising products, Promoted Stories and Promoted Video with Cinema Loop, for the distribution of brand content. Another effective way for brands to connect with consumers is with Brand Magazines – collections of curated brand content. Brands like Lexus, Rolex, Sony Electronics, Whole Foods, Merrill Lynch have beautifully curated collections in the form of Brand Magazines on Flipboard, bringing together stories, images, videos and more to connect with consumers through storytelling.

 

Due to the explosion of mobile content consumption, as well as social platforms, audiences are now distributed and consuming content across a wide range of devices, platforms, websites, and mobile apps. How do you see content consumption, and as a corollary, advertising on these multiple channels, progressing over the next few years?

Today’s successful media companies have shown that three things are important when it comes to content: atomization, aggregation, and being available everywhere. We’re seeing a separation between content creation and distribution with the emergence of social platforms, which creates a fragmentation of audiences and disaggregation of publisher content. We think it makes sense for publishers to connect with readers where they are. It’s why you find thousands of them on Flipboard. Increasing publisher partnerships with platforms like Flipboard can be good for all involved, especially if there are news ways to monetize on other platforms as well.

For advertisers, who are increasingly becoming publishers themselves as traditional advertising fails to capture attention, they also have to think about how to distribute branded content across other platforms in a way that is authentic to that audience and platform. The brands we work with see it as an opportunity, not a threat.

 

There have been many that have tried to corner the market and become the de facto news, magazine, and content consumption app on mobile, mostly recently with Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. Do you ever see any one company dominating as this primary content consumption app, and if not, do you think the market will continue to fragment?

People want great content around their passions and interests and that’s what Flipboard is focused on. We are happy to see the model we have been investing for years of partnering with publishers and content owners is getting traction.

Since its founding, Flipboard has been ever deepening and broadening its partnerships with publishers and other content owners. Thanks to years of work by a steady and dedicated team we have been able to add nearly all publishers to our platform that were on our wishlist. And because anyone can add any content from the web to their Flipboard, we are not limited to partner content — the sources are infinite and growing daily thanks to our user base.

It’s not a winner take all scenario and publishers don’t have to decide between platforms. Different platforms serve different purposes – Facebook is about friends and family; Apple News, which is only available on iOS, is more focused on news stories.

A final thought: the global ad market it worth $600B and most of those dollars still haven’t moved online let alone to mobile. The biggest ad spend still goes to brand-building campaigns that by and large haven’t moved to digital yet. Flipboard has created a premium environment for that type of advertising.

 

Do you have any revenue-sharing opportunities with publishers, and if so, how does it work?

We want to create a sustainable model for publishers and content creators. We do this in two ways:

For longer tail publisher we drive traffic to their mobile website or RSS feeds, where they monetize their own content.

We work with publishers and content owners to develop Flipboard-optimized content and feature their content. We now have a few hundred of these type of partnerships with publishers in the United States and a few in other countries. We run ads in publisher partners’ content on Flipboard that they can sell or we can sell; we have a revenue share relationship.

To get brand advertising budgets to move to digital, we believe it’s key to create a beautiful experience. Inspired by print, we’re creating a great experience that’s fast, beautiful and social; and we’ve developed new ways to monetize content.

 

On the advertising front, Flipboard is known for beautiful designed native ads, that consumers were only used to getting in magazines (a time when it seemed the creative execution mattered much more than just # of impressions). Do you have an in-house creative team, and how do they typically partner with ad operations, and the brand/agency?

We do, and we can help brands build creative, but most of the time, they do it themselves.  Our format allows them to repurpose full-page print ads, video commercials and native advertising. Brands build incredible ads for us. The ads are beautiful because the environment inspires brands to create beautiful ads and the canvas enables them to do so.

 

What is your take on programmatic buying?

I agree with something Meredith Kopit Levien, CRO at The New York Times, recently said about this in an interview with AdExchanger. She said: ”I’ve come to believe that programmatic is no more than process automation for things that can be automated. One thing I love to show my colleagues is how many luxury marketers who pay us a high CPM are buying us programmatically simply as a means of process automation, not because they’re buying on the open market.”

 

Does the seemingly widespread adoption of ad blocking by consumers affect any of the ads served in Flipboard? If so, how does the company plan on mitigating this?

The advertising on Flipboard is not impacted by ad blockers because our ads run 100% in-app. Ad blocking has the potential to be very publisher unfriendly and it avoids the real issue: a poor advertising experience. We’ve been on a quest to build a platform where great creative can thrive within an ideal advertising environment. In fact, part of what Flipboard offers publishers is the potential to have full-sized, high-quality advertising.

 

There has been talk over the past few months that private marketplace deals are going to become more important over the coming years, leveraging the mechanization and efficiency of exchange technology to help advertisers and publishers better collaborate on campaigns. Have you had the chance to work on any private marketplace deals, and if so, what was your experience with them?

It’s something we’re looking into as we are hearing from advertisers that private marketplaces and even guaranteed programmatic buys are increasing while open exchange activity is decreasing as brands demand higher quality inventory in the face concerns about viewability, fraud, and efficacy.

 

What do you think is the biggest misconception of Flipboard, within the context of digital and mobile advertising?

We recently did a study that showed that many advertisers don’t know our audience size, which is now 85M monthly unique users globally. We also found that not everyone is aware of the advertising unit we’ve launched in addition to full screen ads, while native content and in-feed video are core strengths of Flipboard.

 

Lastly, what is your take on the future of digital content consumption, and the monetization of these audiences?

Great stories move the world forward. For these great stories to thrive and achieve maximum impact in a mobile, social world, they need to be available everywhere people are and they need to be supported by sustainable monetization strategies. With today’s abundance of information sources and distribution channels, the challenge is for great content to find its audience. If you can solve this, you’ve created a place where people are engaged with content they love. This, then, offers brands an opportunity to reach those audiences while they’re in a focused mindset free from distraction. This is an environment for a premium form of advertising that’s rare on digital today, which  truly engages readers or viewers and also provides better monetization opportunities for content creators.

 


 

Flipboard is your social magazine. It is the most popular way to catch up on the news, read stories from around the world and browse the articles, videos and photos friends are sharing. To begin, pick a few interests and tap any of the tiles to begin flipping through your personal magazine.

Add blogs and publications like The New York Times, PEOPLE magazine, Fast Company and many more by using the search bar or tapping the red ribbon to open the Content Guide. You can also connect your social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ to see what friends are posting and easily share articles with them.

Save the things you find on Flipboard. Tap the “+” button to collect items into your own magazines on any topic, from Great Hikes to Gear & Gadgets. Go to the Content Guide and select “By Our Readers” to explore magazines others are making.

Download Flipboard and get started today—it’s free!

App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flipboard-your-social-news/id358801284
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=flipboard.app
Windows Store: http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/flipboard/e62e393a-acc9-40d9-a34a-13a41f2eeef0

 

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