Commentary

'USA Today' Supplements iPad Presence With Flipboard Partnership

USA Today

While Gannett’s USA Today newspaper has been present and highly popular on the iPad since the platform’s launch, the largest print circulation newspaper in the U.S. has now boarded the Flipboard bandwagon. In a partnership that features USA Today content on the iPad social media aggregation engine, this will be the first major newspaper to have a prominent place on Flipboard.

Perhaps because of its magazine-like look and feel, Flipboard has been focusing on alliances with magazine brands like The New Yorker and O, The Oprah Magazine in recent months. While any media brand’s feed can be pulled into the aggregation app, which also draws popular articles from a user’s social network relationships, the featured content partners enjoy more fluid content rendering in Flipboard.

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Unlike the typical feed into Flipboard, an article in the USA Today feed fills the app page in a standard format. Each article has the byline in the upper right corner, a logo indicating which section of the newspaper hosts the article, and formatting that lets the reader flip laterally through multiple pages of the article.

The special formatting also allows for a richer multimedia experience in Flipboard. Slideshows from the USA Today Web site, for instance, also fill the screen and allow for smoother navigation. The app interface also lets the user comment on articles and share them easily.

As it does with all of its other major publishing partners, Flipboard feeds full page ad units that typically share revenue between the company and its partner. In the case of the USA Today launch, ironically, the interstitial ad units advertise and link to USA Today’s standalone iPad app.

Which of course raises the question for a media company of why it would partner with an aggregator like Flipboard to feed in the same content it pushes through its own app in real time as well. Obviously, USA Today is aiming for the ubiquity of its brand, even if it offers a richer and presumably more lucrative ad environment in its own app. And in Flipboard, the editorial experience may be more convenient to the news surfer but it is also notably diminished from the app experience. In the Flipboard version we saw, selections from the main section of the brand’s news offerings were collected haphazardly and in no discernible chronological order or with any clear editorial priority. Deliberately or not, pouring USA Today content into an algorithm-driven app like Flipboard only serves to demonstrate the overlooked value of editorial curation and conscious story arrangement and formatting.           

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