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“A finite number of items”: Flipboard launches new tool for publishers, to reduce news fatigue and keep readers coming back

“Storyboards more closely parallel magazines in their dead-tree form than Flipboard’s digital magazines ever have”

New fatigue continues to be an ongoing concern for publishers. A Pew Research published earlier this year, found that almost seven-in-ten (66%) Americans have experienced news fatigue. 

Flipboard has launched a tool that can help publishers deal with news fatigue, and keep readers coming back. This tool, Curator Pro, allows publishers to curate and present news in finite packages, helping readers avoid information overload. 

The packages are called Storyboards – a new form of Flipboard curation which the company revealed last month. They can include articles, images and videos about a news event or around a specific topic. 

A Storyboard can be a guide like Popular Science’s “How To Sleep Better Tonight.” or “all you need to know” style of round-up of a news event, like CNBC’s “George Floyd: Seeds of Change.” It can also be a daily update about a specific topic, for instance, the “Daily Coronavirus Digest,” curated by Flipboard’s editorial team. 

They are different from Flipboard’s user-created Magazines in that they deliver content in a finite package. Magazines, on the other hand, are constantly updated.

Curator Pro lets publishers create these storyboards and monitor their performance as well.

“Ideal way to package coverage on a given topic”

“Storyboards work best when they contain a finite number of items — five to 12 is the sweet spot,” according to Flipboard. “They are perfect for roundups, digests, and lists of stories, videos, songs, podcasts, products and literally anything else you can find on the Internet. Because of their brevity, they are an ideal way to package coverage on a given topic.” 

Sometimes, to get the full picture, it’s helpful to have a series of stories that can show a trend, give deeper perspective or provide advice and insights. Storyboards are a powerful new type of curation that lets creators present the bigger picture, a round-up important coverage or even multiple sides to a story.

Mike McCue, CEO, Flipboard

Storyboards have been given a distinct look which makes them easily recognizable. Each Storboard contains a large photograph followed by a headline and a brief description framed within red brackets. They are presented against a dark background in contrast to the platform’s conventional white layout.

Source: Flipboard/ Medium

“In a way, storyboards more closely parallel magazines in their dead-tree form than Flipboard’s digital magazines ever have,” comments Harry McCracken, Technology Editor for Fast Company. “Print publications, after all, aren’t non-stop processions of articles: They have a start and a finish. Neither are they organized in the strictly last-in-first-out order of a Flipboard digital magazine. Instead, human beings give a lot of consideration to what comes where and how it’s packaged.” 

“Able to do better storytelling”

McCue told TechCrunch’s Anthony Ha that this is something curators have been asking for, as a way to “structure their curation better and be able to do better storytelling.”

Publishers wanted a way to package content around an issue with a “beginning, middle and end… rather than a repository with all the stories on this topic,” he said.

He added that Storyboards could be a great way to highlight different products and generate revenue through affiliate links, especially since “curated commerce is something that will probably play more and more of a significant role in our revenue.”

Flipboard has been testing the new tool over the past few months with over 100 publishers who were given access to its beta version. Now it’s been made available to verified publishers and influencers in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. It will be rolled-out in Germany, France, Italy and Spain later this summer with more countries to follow.

The limited rollout is intentional, according to Troy Brant, VP of Engineering, Flipboard. Apart from giving the platform time to iron out any bugs, the limited release may also help prevent abuse. “We plan to start expanding once we have the mechanisms to track bad actors in either an automated or manual way,” explained Brant.

“Inherently useful to users”

Verified users can access Curator Pro through a new module, “Create Storyboard.” It’s available on the desktop view of their Flipboard Profile. The tool prompts curators to write a Storyboard headline and description, select a main image and add URLs. They can be links to articles, videos, podcasts, live streams, products, photos, Flipboard magazines, social posts as well as newsletter sign-up pages. These items can be organized into “sections” with up to 10 links in each. 

Curators can choose up to five topic tags that are relevant to the content in their Storyboard, to improve its discoverability in Flipboard. After a Storyboard is published, the creator can share the entire package through Flipboard Magazines, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and email.

Storyboards will be displayed to the creator’s followers on Flipboard, as well as to readers who follow related topics. Moreover, one doesn’t need to be a Flipboard user to view Storyboards – they can live on and off the platform, which expands their shareability. The idea is to make them “inherently useful to users,” explains McCue.

“360 view of how users are engaging”

Curator Pro also includes a new analytics dashboard. It provides insights into the engagement with storyboards, as well as individual stories contained in them. Once a Storyboard is live, the creator can look at their profile page to check the analytics which include number of views, opens and social engagement metrics such as likes, comments and flips. 

The curator gets the full 360 view of how users are engaging with both their own curation, as well as the content inside. 

Troy Brant, VP of Engineering, Flipboard

Earlier, publishers had access to basic analytics on content shared on Flipboard, McCue told Mediapost. The new dashboard lets them see “what works and what doesn’t” on the platform. “Now, they can look and see that this Storyboard created new followers, these videos were heavily watched, this type of archive material was popular on the Storyboard.”

Source: Mediapost

Brant told Techcrunch that Storyboards are just the “first step” for Curator Pro. The company has more magazine curation tools and analytics on the way. For example, an upcoming feature will allow users to publish newsletter-like editions of a storyboard, such as a weekly roundup of science stories.

Flipboard has approximately 145M monthly active users and has been a reliable traffic driver to publishers. Storyboard is it’s latest effort to stand out in the crowded news aggregation space where it competes with Apple’s News, Google News, SmartNews and many other specialized news apps and websites.

The company’s other recent additions include the launch of a paid TV service in February which delivers professionally shot and directed short-form videos from major publications to readers. Flipboard also launched a local news initiative in January, and has steadily expanded coverage to include 50 metro areas in the US and Canada. 

“Less is more approach” drives increased usage

By providing readers with visually attractive, curated and finite packages of content via storyboards, publishers can help them avoid getting overwhelmed by information overload. 

According to Flipboard, the user data of its Daily Edition feature and 10 For Today newsletter shows that the “less is more approach” drives increased usage. McCue told Engadget that the idea behind Storyboards is similar to asking a photographer friend what camera and lenses to buy before going on your first safari. The friend won’t list every single model that should be considered. Instead, s/he’ll suggest only a handful of models they think are the best. 

“That sort of time-saving mechanism, where you can provide context around the raw material, is what keeps people coming back,” he concluded.

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