Friday Roast - Flipboard's a great curation channel - just not for curators

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed September 2, 2016
Summary:
Your resident curator has a bone to pick with Flipboard. Specifically, its lack of clarity on what drives curation value. Seems a good time for a Friday Roast, complete with never-before-seen backchannel emails.

weiner-roast
I've been paying attention to Flipboard. My unhealthy passion for curation requires new mediums. Flipboard keeps coming up. It's too bad they aren't interested in engaging curators. Recent interactions showed me they are content with a substandard approach.

Why do I care about Flipboard? Well, readers like it. Flipboard remains one of diginomica's dark horse referral sources. When you subtract the usual suspects (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), Flipboard looms large as a traffic source.

Flipboard also seized upon mobile, offering an intuitive way to "flip" through a magazine. They beefed up their web presence to flex between app and web. They've added curator's commentary - a crucial feature. Bottom line:

Flipboard is dandy if you are willing to use it as your only curation channel. If you're not, have fun manually reposting all your content.

Flipboard has a wrongheaded approach to automation, dumping automation chores in the hands of the users. They don't grasp that automating content posting shifts the creative time to the commentary.

Sure, if you're a publisher with deep pockets and a love of minutia, you can hire a tech person to get a popsicle headache trying to parse their insane RSS specifications.

But publishing a magazine of your own web content isn't curation; it's a magazine. The value curators bring is picking from a range of sources and adding their two cents. With my jonerpnewsfeed, I go through this process:

  1. Comb through 1,200 prioritized enterprise newsfeeds in my Newsblur newsreader, which I have prioritized by author and topic over eight years.
  2. Add another layer of combing via ping services like Digg Deeper.
  3. Share the best enterprise stories directly from Newsblur, which goes into a curated RSS feed, which can be subscribed to by daily email or feedburner RSS.
  4. The RSS jonerpnewsfeed then populates a series of curation posting channels, including Facebook page, Twitter page, and LinkedIn, with different posting parameters for each set up in dlvr.it.
  5. Pull in the best of those stories for my weekly Enterprise Hits and Misses column.

Flipboard could easily fit into this process, and be a terrific curation channel. If I could automate the posting process, and focus on the commentary piece, I would do it. I aired it out with them in the backchannel:

Email subject: baffled by your approach to RSS

Hello - I know you say you prefer "in app" support requests but I find it incredibly tedious to thumb out a serious support question on my mobile, so hopefully you'll get this. I attempted to interact with your Twitter handle, but they gave up after one question.  Anyhow, I remain baffled by your approach to RSS.

As an expert curator, I already curate a range of enterprise software channels, more than 1,000 feeds, for my enterprise newsfeed which has subscribers across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email.

A while back, I gave a Flipboard magazine a try, but it was so tedious to manually add each article that I already added. This seems very silly when I already have a feed that is used to populate Facebook pages, LinkedIn and so on.

Flipboard, however, has almost no support to publish a magazine based on one curated feed.  I don't understand that but it's a real shame.

If I could simply have the feed populate my Flipboard publication, then I could focus on the value add part, adding bits of commentary to the Flipboard magazine. It could be a very popular roundup of enterprise software trends and digital change.

But, I can't do it. And please don't point me to your ridiculously complicated RSS feed for Flipboard instructions. It shouldn't be necessary to create an elaborate feed modification for Flipboard.

And in my case, it wouldn't work anyhow, since I use the pinboard service to create my curated feed from numerous web sites, so I couldn't modify the feed anyhow. Yet, amazingly enough, it works just fine for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Just not Flipboard.

Anyhow, if you ever make it easier for expert curators like me to add value to Fiipboard rather than manually reposting content chores, do let me know.

Though my interactions with Flipboard's Twitter support was cheezeball, I did get a refreshingly candid email response, which included:

Thanks for your email and for your thoughtful comments. I agree that there isn't an easy way to import or populate a feed into Flipboard right now. We know that this is a problem for many and it's something that we have been working on in the past. Hopefully it's functionality that we can release in the future. Sorry that I didn't have much good news for you, but please let me know if you have any other questions for me!

Translation: our business model is doing fine without you, but carry on.

My reaction: candid and thoughtful. And I don't mind knowing where I stand.

Granted, Flipboard isn't the only channel with these hangups. Scoop.it has the same problem. I do have an enterprise media disruptions channel on Scoop.it, but I wouldn't do it if I had to post daily, way too cumbersome. Besides, Flipboard is the better looking format, with vastly superior referral numbers. For now, my Flipboard curation dreams are smashed on the rocks of corporate indifference. I'll curate either way; I'm permanently afflicted.

Updated 9/3/2016, 2:30pm, tightened copy added links and swapped a few adjectives - meaning of piece wasn't altered.