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Is Flipboard Too Much Fun to Be Useful?

When Flipboard first arrived on the scene earlier this year to much acclaim from iPad (s aapl) lovers, the app was essentially just a browser for Twitter and Facebook. But now the company has introduced support for Google (s goog) Reader feeds, Flickr (s yhoo) photos and other real-time media streams, as it tries to become a one-stop iPad portal for content. Flipboard — whose CEO, Mike McCue, just joined the Twitter board of directors after the social network’s recent funding round — is also working directly with certain media companies to present their content in a custom Flipboard format on the iPad.

I confess that my initial enthusiasm for Flipboard faded somewhat after I used it for a while. Not that it wasn’t an enjoyable way to surf through Twitter and Facebook, because it was — the flip interface makes for a perfect navigation method on the iPad, which is all about touch — but it never seemed important enough to become a crucial part of my day. I have Twitter open on a second screen on my desktop all day long, so browsing through Flipboard seemed repetitive, and browsing through Facebook status updates was nice, but more like a time-waster than something really necessary.

I mentioned this on Twitter at one point, and Mike McCue responded and said the company started with the entertainment aspect first, but was adding new features that would make it more useful. Those features are now here. It effectively replaces a news reader, since it pulls in Google Reader feeds (although I still like the Reeder app for iPad, which has a great design and is very fast), and it adds more granularity when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, with the ability to choose a feed of just status updates from friends, a Twitter list, posts from your Facebook wall, etc.

All of this makes Flipboard a lot more useful. It’s possible I might adopt it as my feed reader of choice, although I’m not sure about that yet. But I wonder whether the flip-style interface for the app isn’t inherently contradictory to using it as a business or work tool; since it seems more like browsing as you flip through pages, does that make less appealing as a serious content consumption or information-intake tool? I don’t really know. Flipboard is also competing in the same arena with Pulse, which many users like as an RSS reader for the iPad (and which recently added support for Facebook feeds).

Flipboard also recently announced content deals with specific media outlets, including All Things Digital (s nws) and the Washington Post (s wpo), which presents content from those sites in a special Flipboard custom theme rather than just sending you to the website when you click an excerpt. There have been some concerns raised in the past about how Flipboard scrapes content from websites and shows excerpts, and whether this is covered by the “fair use” exemption in copyright law, so it’s interesting to see some publishers using it as a secondary distribution channel. Whether others jump on board as well remains to be seen.

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6 Responses to “Is Flipboard Too Much Fun to Be Useful?”

  1. I think flipboard has the chance to provide a whole new and better web browsing experience. The tiles approach which allows 9 sections of contact per flip page seems about the right use of screen space on the iPad. And the thing I like best about it is the ‘read more’ approach to all of the content portals. If you go into something like the Detroit Lions content site, you get a nice arrangement of the most recent blogs, but limited to the first couple of sentences. If intrigued, you click and get the next few sentences, still in the clipboard format. And if you want to finish the article, you launch to the web content in browser form. It seems to share a concept with the new windows phone that real estate is precious and the idea of one page to the world (Google) is a bit overwhelming. This drill down concept is an outstanding accommodation. I can imagine the Flipboard concept in use as a corporate intranet aggregator where company content is offered and each employee chooses their home page, what an opportunity! I’d like to see more and more content agree to use Flipboard as an alternate channel, because content is king. As for facebook, I can interact with my account on the iPad in three ways, safari, facebook app or flipboard

  2. Adding RSS via Google reader will breath some life into FlipBoard. But like Mathew, I agree, the novelty of Flipboard has worn off for me too. Also agree that the flip aspect is too playfull for it to become a great all-in-one reader. Flipping negates the really great part of the iPad which is the smooth scrolling.

    Whatever it is, there’s something very passive about reading Flipboard. Something of an entertainment read, like a magazine, which is what Flipboard is advertised as. But a magazine is not a newspaper, and for serious consumption, newspaper formats are the way to go.

  3. I use native Twitter and the iPhone app, no TweetDeck or other tool. I habitually read every single tweet – nothing skipped. I have a small number of Twitter follows, and even with such a minimalist feed, I find that it can become overwhelming given the Twitter/app scrolling presentation style. How people can have tens-of-thousands of follows and still use it effectively is beyond my understanding. But maybe FlipBoard is how? I have really taken to the magazine style. Since switching to FlipBoard as a morning and evening ritual, I find that I can absorb much more and still remain true to reading EVERYTHING. It has allowed me to add more follows. Now I only use the web/app for a quick what’s-happening-now view during the day. FlipBoard is my equivalent of sitting down with Facebook, the daily newspaper, industry rags, and my hobbyist newsletters all rolled into one.

    Until there are more Galaxy Tabs or similar out there, the iPad is a very novel platform. When I show people unfamiliar, there are the usual oohs and aahs. But when I show them FlipBoard, it becomes an immediate I-gotta-get-me-one attraction. FlipBoard and iPad were a match made in heaven.