Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The New York Times Gets All the News That’s Fit to Print — All of It — Into Flipboard

Like the New York Times? Like Flipboard? Here’s a corporate mashup for you: The Times’ subscribers will soon be able read the entire paper on the aggregation/recommendation app.

The news is important for Flipboard because it marks the first time the start-up has convinced a big publisher to give it full access to its “premium” content. Previously it has let users sample bits of stuff from magazines, newspapers and the like.

And it’s important for the Times because it’s the first time it has given anyone else full access to its stuff.

Up until now, the only way to read digital versions of the newspaper was via the Times’ Web site or its iOS and Android apps. Now the paper says it will emulate cable TV’s “TV Everywhere” strategy, where paying subscribers can read the paper using any device or software they want.

This doesn’t seem like a bad idea. But I’m not sure that it will do much for the Times, either.

The theoretical appeal of TV Everywhere is that it gives viewers the shows they want, without forcing them to watch it on their couch. The idea is that someone who only watches video on their laptop, iPad or Xbox would find plenty of stuff to justify continuing their cable subscription.

But Times subscribers already have access to the New York Times on just about any device they want. And the Flipboard version looks and acts almost exactly the way the Times apps act (see screenshot). This just means you don’t have to toggle between the Times app and Flipboard.

On the other hand, this deal does give the paper another place to market its digital editions, since nonsubscribers will get free access to a small sample of the paper’s stories, similar to the free offering on the Times’ free iPad edition.

And there’s the possibility of a new revenue stream as well, via Flipboard edition ads; the paper will share any of that money with Flipboard.

As for Flipboard, the vote of confidence from the paper of record is a nice momentum marker. Flipboard started out in 2010 with what was effectively a nice way to look at Facebook and Twitter streams. It has gradually added a host of traditional publishers, and has lately been spreading out beyond print, adding audio (SoundCloud) and video (YouTube), etc.

It has branched out beyond its initial iPad focus, as well, and last week announced that it was fully supporting Android devices. And it will now come preinstalled on Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S III phones.

We’ll see what the increased distribution does for its take-up. Flipboard has yet to release monthly user data, but says that as of January, eight million people had downloaded and installed its apps.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work