updated 10:10 am EST, Thu December 2, 2010
Flipboard adds magazine layouts for sites
Flipboard today made a claim to becoming a full tablet magazine producer today by adding a framework to its iPad app (free, App Store) with special versions of sites as well as ads. Known as Flipboard Pages, the format takes the content from publishers and turns it into an HTML5-based, multi-page layout that more closely resembles a paper magazine. The conversions are automatic and will appear whenever a supporting site is shared on Facebook or Twitter.
The initial plan is serving a handful of both traditional and web-only publishers, including ABC, AllThingsD, Bon Appetit, Lonely Planet, SB Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, Uncrate and the Washington Post Magazine. Plans will eventually let other publishers develop their own adaptations.
To help generate money, Flipboard is also testing its first-ever ads. A trial with ad firm OMD is running full-page ads for certain publishers using OMD's clients, which includes recognizable charities and major corporations such as Charity: Water, Infiniti, Levi's and Pepsi.
The push is a potentially large step forward for tablet publishing since it would provide a print-like experience but without the same sacrifices to content sharing and live updates that have surfaced in tablet versions of conventional publications like Sports Illustrated and Wired. Traditionalists such as News Corp's Rupert Murdoch have often complained about the web as undermining the industry by encouraging free content that sometimes isn't locally hosted, but Flipboard's method could let these sites get paid more significant amounts without disrupting the ability to share content elsewhere.
The move has already triggered significant interest, Flipboard said: well-known publishing magnate William Hearst has joined the company directly as an advisor. The US head of OMD's technology incubator Ignition Factory, Jonathan Haber, also argued in favor of the Flipboard deal as a broader move into tablet ads. iPads and other tablets have "inspired new thinking" in how to run ads, he explained.
Interest in creating tablet-oriented publications has spiked sharply in just the past few months, most recently surfacing in Virgin's iPad-only Project magazine but also the plans by News Corp itself to offer a daily iPad newspaper. Almost all of the support has gone to Apple's device so far, with limited Android support due to the small market share and lack of common guidelines for Google-based tablets.