"A New Point of Entry for Brands." Interview with Flipboard CTO Arthur Van Hoff

By August 04, 2010

The day Flipboard launched, Robert Scoble evangelized it. Which is about as successful a launch a company can hope for, even if it hadn't yet scaled to handle Scoble's profound influence. Scoble continued to play with Flipboard

the rest of the day his article appeared (we know; we were sitting next to him), and since then the app has caught the international imagination in a way that no other iPad app has.

It's the device's first killer app.

L'Atelier France's Caroline Leduc caught up with Flipboard CTO Arthur Van Hoff this week.

L'Atelier: Why create a magazine that's based on user-generated content?

Van Hoff: With a billion messages posted each day on the web, social networks have become the primary tool for for discovering and sharing content. The only thing is, this stream is dispersed and needs to be organized to use it.

Is it the user who organizes their Flipboard, or is the process automated?

In the current version, Flipboard examines the user's browsing history and what kind of content they normally access, for example be social networks, news, music or sports. In the next version of our app, which should be released by the end of fall, we hope to integrate real-time search software developed by Ellerade. This will let the app determine which information and social connections – friends – the user is closest to. So if I like politics and spend a lot of time on political sites or blogs, the application will refine my Flipboard so that information has a prime spot.

Do you see Flipboard as a form of new media?

Yes, it's part of a new way of reading and keeping informed. Today on the web you need to go on different sites to be able to follow the information streams around your interests. And if you want to share something with a friend, you need to be able to create a URL link. We want to focus on information that is useful to the user. In Flipboard's design, Mike McCue and Evan Doll – the creators of the app – were largely inspired by the printing industry. They thought that if it's possible assemble a certain amount of information on a simple paper document every day, that should easily be as possible with social media. They also realized that you can make social media look better aesthetically with the typographic techniques, page layout – photos – of traditional magazines.

What's your business model?

We hope that Flipboard becomes a new entry point for brands in the social networking landscape. As such, we hope that all content – advertising included – can have have a “social” aspect.

Today, people want to share everything on the web – photos, comments, opinions. In this sense, Flipboard has the capacity to make the marketing message more immersive. Because the problem today with web advertising is that it's concentrated on internet users' clicks and interests, without considering the consumer experience. We hope as well that this electronic magazine will be a new playground for app creators and developers.

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