When I got my first iPad, the third iteration and first model sporting a high-resolution “Retina” display, there was an app I was really psyched to install: Flipboard. Flipboard is a highly customizable news aggregator, or “newsreading” app, that has become an indispensable part of my daily news gathering, reading, and social media consumption. This media aggregator can also be leveraged for targeted research (which I commonly do for my consumer tech books). Flipboard is the pinnacle “go to” app for tens of millions of mobile technology consumers. I’m obviously a big fan.
Flipboard is one of those great apps/media services that is not only super-easy to configure and use, but could even become a part of your obsessive daily regiment of screen tapping. With more than 100 million users, it’s one of the most popular news aggregators to land on a smartphone or tablet (you can now also access it from its website). You can connect your Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Facebook feeds to the service, keeping you uber up-to-date and embracing the one-stop shopping philosophy and efficiency that top-shelf news aggregators so capably deliver.
Minimal, Attractive Ads
I don’t typically like advertising-supported apps, but Flipboard features professionally designed national ads sprinkled on just lightly enough that they never seem to get in the way. However, this volume will surely increase; Flipboard’s ad burden could become unacceptable, especially to overly sensitive fans of ad-free subscription pricing models (like me).
Now you know why Netflix is so popular; it’s not the semi-stale selection of movies, but rather the lack of commercials. It’s currently impossible to rid your Flipboard feed of ads. Unfortunately, paid subscriptions aren’t available. It would be nice if, in the future, the service offered both a free, ad-supported version and also a feature-enhanced, ad-free paid variety (like the Pandora music streaming service).
I rely on Flipboard to such a great extend that I began using one of the neater features of this service, its magazines. A “magazine” is basically just a collection of articles found via any Flipboard media source. Magazines are available to everyone on Flipboard. You simply tag an article for inclusion in one of your magazines (you can maintain several) and it instantaneously appears within its pages, or boards (thus the name of the company).
Even nicer, there’s a few Flipboard extensions for the Chrome browser that allow you to add virtually any web-based article or content to a magazine (I use + Flip It; also check out Add to Flipboard). Simply click the Flipboard icon on the Chrome toolbar, choose the destination magazine, and viola! It’s there until you choose to remove it. This can be done from both the desktop and mobile devices, like your iPad.
Magazines Are Great
A Flipboard magazine can be updated as frequently—or infrequently—as the owner prefers. Magazines don’t cost anything to create or maintain and provide a wonderful service to the Flipboard community: Member-curated content. Articles found in magazines often touch on eccentric niche interests and major trending topics alike, providing a very filtered view of the millions of highly dynamic articles offered by Flipboard.
We get enough content curated by corporations; it’s a refreshing change to consume what a peer of mine, i.e. another member of Flipboard and probably just some middle class shlep like me, has collected. One of my Flipboard magazines, Middle Class Tech, is a collection of a few hundred articles from news sources like Ars Technica, The Atlantic, Transport Evolved, GigaOM, CarNewsCafe, Engadget, Teslarati, and many others. It focuses on affordable technology that touches the lives of middle class consumers, especially early adopters and cord cutting nuclear families.
Check It Out
If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, but a user of mobile tech, I recommend checking it out. Then again, I’m a Netflix-addicted cord cutter who doesn’t watch the local newscast or read a newspaper (I want it all on my tablet or smartphone). Beyond the basic ability to choose the media outlets from which you want to receive articles, Flipboard’s magazines provide you with a look inside the hobbies, interests, and passions of fellow users of this service. This is the next generation of the RSS reader, and so slick you’ll never look back.
I even use Flipboard for article and book research. In fact, I’ve created six different Flipboard magazines for topics ranging from SpaceX to hydrogen fuel cell cars. It allows me to easily collect and archive articles about these topics so I can conveniently access them on any mobile device in the future—like when I’m writing a freelance article or developing a book related to those topics. You may find similar uses for magazines that you, or others, create.
Typically, Flipboard promotes its magazines as a way to act as a curator and make your collections available to others. Which is certainly true and the primary purpose. However, these magazines are so easy to create and maintain, you should seriously consider creating some soley for your own use. The fact that others can check them out is just icing on the cake.
Regardless of whether you latch onto Flipboard’s magazines as either a curator or consumer, I encourage you to check out this 21st century method for collecting up-to-the-minute news from dozens of media sources, including long-form articles and your social media accounts.
[This article was originally published on August 27, 2014 and updated on September 18, 2015.]
Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:
- Home Theater for the Internet Age ($9.95)
- Understanding Personal Data Security ($4.99)
- Understanding Home Theater ($4.99)
- Understanding Cutting the Cord ($4.99)
- Understanding Digital Music ($4.99)