Flipboard is releasing a slew of features to make its content discovery service more attractive to the publishers whose content appear in its apps and website. In doing so, it’s also indirectly responding to the threat posed by Facebook’s Instant Articles and other services that find blog posts for their users to read.
The first of these features is the ability for publishers to create profiles where all of their content will be posted. Previous versions of the service, which debuted to much fanfare alongside the original iPad, were limited to a series of feeds that had to be discovered via its search tools instead of a single easy-to-find place.
Publishers can manage their profiles with custom logos, designs, and many of the settings that can be tweaked on essentially any platform. Flipboard will also work with publishers to verify these profiles, making it easier to tell if a page is actually run by a paper like the Washington Post or if it’s managed by impostors.
In addition to these profiles, publishers will now be able to include “end cards” that link to their other content in the last “page” of their stories. Now, instead of having to worry about readers abandoning them whenever they finish a story, these content providers will be able to at least attempt to keep their interest.
Flipboard’s head of partner platform products, Jack Mazzeo, said that early tests showed these new end cards increase click-throughs by 15 percent. “We think publishers will really find that valuable,” he said, adding that Flipboard wants to “improve reader engagement” with the publishers with which it has partnered.
Both of these changes make Flipboard more competitive with Facebook’s Instant Articles, which were recently updated with similar features allowing publishers to link to whatever content they’d like at the end of their stories. The new profile pages resemble the central hub for content around which Facebook is organized.
Another change is Flipboard’s new support for Google Analytics and ComScore. Both are supposed to make it easier for publishers to sell ads against traffic in Flipboard’s mobile applications, which were previously measured by the company and detailed in monthly reports instead of up-to-the-minute updates.
Mazzeo said publishers requested both integrations. The update is meant to serve two purposes: for “larger publishers to have more real-time visibility into their traffic on Flipboard” and for “smaller publishers who want to understand how much traffic” they get to decide if they want to invest more in the service.
All of these efforts follow a report from the Wall Street Journal which claimed that the company was “floundering” because one of its co-founders left; its ad rates reportedly fell by half; and acquisition talks with Twitter fell through. Chief executive Mike McCue dismissed the report in a later interview with Fortune.
That dismissal was echoed by Flipboard spokeswoman Christel van der Boom. During the interview with Mazzeo, she said that the Journal’s report was based on “anonymous sources” and that Flipboard recently had the best quarter in its history. She later said she didn’t have the exact numbers to back up that claim.
Either way, and regardless of how Flipboard has positioned these new features, it’s clear that the company is moving past its beginnings as a social aggregator. Is that because Facebook removed the need for apps like Flipboard with Instant Articles, or because the company’s experiencing a turbulent period in its history?
It doesn’t really matter. The result is the same: An experience that relies less on the hodgepodge nature of Flipboard’s core service and makes the service more like a collection of traditional magazines. It’s happy. Publishers are happy. Now it’ll see if users will be happy, too, and that’s when the real fun will get started.