The good news first: Flipboard, the popular iPad app that lets users aggregate its social media and news feeds into one unified, magazine-like viewing experience, today released an update with a load of new functionality, including support for Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Reader and Flickr, and more Twitter and Facebook integration. The bad news: there is still no ability to read articles offline.
Flipboard’s major update, currently being rolled out across the app store, now lets users incorporate their feeds from Google Reader and Flickr, features that Flipboard says were among the “most requested” from its users.
The Google Reader feature, which was in fact the most requested addition, effectively turns the Reader into a social network. Users can now not only read, flag and share their own stories with friends, but they can comment on them all. Similarly, the Flickr integration effectively puts most of the social functionality of the actual service on to Flipboard. The one exception, it seems, is the ability to upload photos.
Flipboard has also extended its Facebook and Twitter functionality, making it significantly easier to post updates to and across each network, both from within other feeds and directly, as well as see what other people are writing and doing. The Twitter connections, in particular, seem particularly immediate, a nice coincidence given Flipboard CEO Mike McCue recently joining Twitter’s board.
One tweak that Flipboard has made concerns how people view articles in their feeds. In the past these used to come up as previews with a “read on web” button; now Flipboard automatically loads either the web page, RSS feed or Flipboard Pages view of the story (whichever pertains to that specific piece of content). Flipboard Pages is a feature that the company is currently testing out with nine publishers to create a more “magazine-like” view of articles and advertisements when they are selected for reading.
All of these updates are very canny because they encourage people to stay in Flipboard for longer periods of time, and help eliminate the need to go elsewhere for their social media and content fixes.
The one big standout area that has yet to be touched in Flipboard’s minor and major updates is offline content — in other words, to be able to read content in Flipboard, you have to be online. This is an issue that apparently Flipboard is well aware of because it is also a frequent request from its users. The company, says a source, is working on it.
We’ve asked for more detail from Flipboard itself and will update when and if we hear back. A Flipboard spokesperson says that a user can still flip through a Flipboard offline, even if the app can’t go out and fetch the story for the reader. “It is a tough problem to solve since we don’t cache all the stories in your magazine,” she added. “That said, we do support Instapaper, so if you see stories in your Flipboard that you want to read later, you can save them for off-line reading using the Instapaper option.”
Flipboard currently has around 1 million users, which works out to about one out of every eight or nine iPad owners.