The New York Times announced that beginning Thursday, that their articles and their paywall were going to hit the Flipboard app. While some are still trying to figure out what the heck Flipboard is, we're trying figure out who got the better end of this deal.
For those not fully aware -- Flipboard is basically an app that reformats a website's stories, Facebook news feeds, and Twitter into big, beautiful eye-pleasing layouts. Apple called it the best tablet app in 2010, and it might be a media industry savior.
Well, its deal with The New York Times is simple. You'll be able to get full access to New York Times articles on Flipboard beginning Thursday, but unless you're a subscriber, you'll also have to deal with the pesky 10-article-per-month paywall that the Times has adopted--premium Times content was locked for Flipboard users. What isn't so simple is how this affects both media companies or if this is even a good move, which is where we try and break it down for you:
With the deal, The Gray Lady gets to be hipper (think: cool mom). No, seriously. It seems just yesterday we were talking about the fun New York Times and Buzzfeed collaboration in covering the Republican and Democratic conventions, which sent the Twitterverse into an OMG-peppered tizzy. With Flipboard, it's another step into that direction even though Tech Crunch's Alexia Tsotsis sounds a little less than enthusiastic. "Fine. Sure. It’s a big deal, in a business that is slowly dying, to show an understanding of 21st century distribution mechanisms. Kudos NYT. You’re still worth less than Instagram."
For an app that's often described as niche and often comes with a several-word explanation, this pairing might be what Flipboard needs to get some name recognition. "[F]or Flipboard, the vote of confidence from the paper of record is a nice momentum marker," writes AllThingsD's Peter Kafka. "Flipboard started out in 2010 with what was effectively a nice way to look at Facebook and Twitter streams," he writes. And Mashable's Todd Wasserman adds, "For Flipboard, the announcement is the latest in a couple of high-profile moves over the past few weeks including the introduction of an Android app and integration with Google+ and YouTube."
Essentially, in two short years, a nice way to look at media has turned into something that gives you all the news that's fit to print, and it holds a nice bargaining chip with future publishers now--not bad.
Denise Warren, general manager of The Times' website, revealed that a recent survey determined that 20 percent of NYT subscribers 20 percent said they read Web content through third-party apps like Flipboard that feature a variety of sources, reports the Times' own Bits Blog. And that's a hefty percentage. But Kafka points out how that can be deceiving:
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.
Ahhh, the money. According to the Times's bits blog, the paper "will sell full-screen ads that appear between its Flipboard pages, which are intended to be more attention-grabbing than conventional web advertising", but aren't revealing how the revenue will be split. On name recognition alone, we're guessing it's easier to sell ads on The New York Times than it would be the other way around. So there's that--that America's paper of record should receive a bigger chunk of the revenue.
But it's worth noting that ads haven't been working out so well for The Times' media giant neighbor down the street: Conde Nast, where two of its publications, Wired and The New Yorker, aren't seeing benefits and have cut their ties to the app. "All the others that went to that more robust experience are staying on it," said Josh Stinchcomb, VP for digital sales at the Conde Nast Media Group told Ad Age. "Some are having great success with the advertising piece. It's becoming clear that it's not one size fits all."
As Kafka noted, the pages on the Times app and Flipboard look identical. And that might be a good thing for The Times. Hear us out. As Ad Age's Nat Ives reports, one of the reasons behind The New Yorker and Wired cutting the cord with Flipboard was because of a lack of advertising. The other reason seems to be aesthetics. "Nobody will deny that Flipboard is a beautiful product, but the question is, is it too beautiful?" an executive told Ives. "What people want out of a magazine is exactly what they're delivering. So if people feel like they're getting that already, even if it's not the same depth of content that would be in a print or monthly publication, then are they less likely to want to find it in the magazine itself?"
The Times is no magazine. And with its paywall, there's no danger in people jumping ship the way they would with those Conde titles.
If the aesthetics remain the same, Flipboard: loses what they've been known for--making ugly dull things pretty.
Winner: The Times
Of course, this is speculation at best and we won't know how this all shakes out until Thursday (and beyond). But for now, it looks like Flipboard may have got the better end of this deal.