Mike Isaac

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Not Just for Mobile Anymore: Flipboard Magazines Come to the Web

flipboardwebThe social magazine app Flipboard made a name for itself by being one of the first reading apps to take advantage of the iPad’s form factor upon its debut.

Three years later, it’s making its way to the Web.

Beginning Tuesday, Flipboard’s magazines — a product launched a few months ago that allows users to curate thematic collections of story content from various sources — can be shared across the Web. Stick a link to your magazine into a Web page, and visitors can read your magazine via their desktop browser, a major change from Flipboard’s mobile-only beginnings on iOS and Android.

Like its mobile versions, however, the company’s magazines still act like Flipboard. Content is paginated and “flippable,” keeping the action that made the apps so magazine-like to peruse. The HTML5-based pages load in the background, so that flipping through remains seamless.

That was important for the company, which has always purported to be a “social magazine.”

“This is what magazines do,” CEO Mike McCue told AllThingsD. “There’s a sense of narrative, of drama, that comes with paginated content.”

The move is all about growth. As with many tablet and mobile-based reading products, Flipboard’s peak traffic hours are during the morning, evening and weekends, McCue said. Think breakfast time, commuting or couch-reading — basically all the waking hours that aren’t spent in front of a desktop computer doing work.

“We want to capture that desktop audience in the middle of the day,” McCue said.

The company’s growth is already impressive. At last count, in late May, the company had more than 50 million users accessing the app from mobile devices. Two months later, that number is at 75 million, growing at a clip of 200,000 users added on a daily basis.

Making at least part of the Flipboard experience available to Web users will obviously expand that number — especially as each shared magazine on the Web comes with a link out to the App Store and Google Play, potentially driving more downloads to the Flipboard app.

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue

Flipboard Flipboard CEO Mike McCue

Moreover, Flipboard’s custom ad units that fit inside its existing apps are still available via the Web browser. That means a larger “circulation” for the ads seen in the current round of curated magazines for some publishers, bolstering the rev-share ad agreements that publishers have in place with Flipboard.

As an aside: Flipboard’s ad terminology is particularly interesting, as McCue describes it. It essentially behaves like the old print model rather than like the Web display ads advertisers have grown used to today; McCue speaks in terms of “circulation” and “ad pages,” and ad inventory is limited — just like it is in traditional print publications.

McCue thinks that bringing this familiar ad model to publishers who have spent most of their media history buying ads in this way will ultimately help open up those ad budgets, where most of the dollars are still spent in traditional print, TV and billboard outlets.

For now, the full Flipboard experience isn’t available via the browser, just the magazines. That means you aren’t able to fully sign in with your social accounts to receive personalized content based on your Twitter, Facebook and other feeds, arguably one of the app’s most attractive features.

But the magazines are a start, and Flipboard plans to bring its full experience to the Web later on — flips and all.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald