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Wired and The New Yorker Pull Back on Flipboard

Shelving Efforts to Sell Ads, Curtailing 'Flip-able' Content

By Published on . 5

Some magazines are developing Flipboard fatigue.

Wired and The New Yorker are suspending efforts to sell ads on the platform and replacing their robust Flipboard feeds next month with spartan versions that summon their own websites if readers want whole articles.

Wired will stop posting entire articles like this on Flipboard next month.
Wired will stop posting entire articles like this on Flipboard next month.

"Wired is pulling back," said Howard Mittman, VP and publisher at the magazine. "Our intention is to adapt our model to allow Flipboard users to know what content at Wired is out there. It will have a headline and a sentence leading to a URL. If digital consumers want to interact with Wired, they can do so at Wired.com and not through an intermediary."

"We're doing the same thing," said Lisa Hughes, VP-publisher at The New Yorker, which like Wired is part of Conde Nast.

Flipboard, the tablet and smartphone app that weaves media and social feeds into a magazine layout, can display websites such as Wired.com and NewYorker.com, so users will still be able to read complete Wired and New Yorker articles without leaving the app. But they won't be able to flip through lush, magazine-like layouts -- one of the app's main attractions -- as they do it.

"We'll still be there and you'll still be able to read some content," Ms. Hughes said. "You'll just click through if you want to read the full length."

The magazine industry has been hoping that Flipboard, which Apple called the best iPad app of 2010, will connect them with new audiences and advertisers on mobile devices. And readers certainly seem to have gravitated there. Flipboard said in February that users were averaging 1.6 billion "flips" per month. But nearly a year after Conde Nast began offering ads on the platform, sales have been uneven.

Some magazines have begun to wonder whether it's a good idea to encourage consumers to read their content elsewhere -- without having to buy a magazine, download its tablet edition or visit its website. "The growth is incredible, but to what end?" asked an executive at another magazine company on Flipboard.

"Nobody will deny that Flipboard is a beautiful product, but the question is , is it too beautiful?" the executive said. "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 New York Times is dealing with that challenge this Thursday, when it plans to begin posting its full content on Flipboard -- but only for users who also prove they are paid Times subscribers. Magazines could consider adopting a similar model, but for now they are looking to ad revenue to make the content giveaway worth it.

Marketers are running a total of four to eight campaigns each month across the 15 publishers authorized to sell ads there, a Flipboard spokeswoman said late last week, citing a Macy's ad in the Oprah feed, the Tourism Australia ad in Lonely Planet's feed and an ad for Universal Pictures' "Savages" in the Vanity Fair feed as current examples.

Conde Nast titles such as Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Glamour and Details are continuing where Wired and The New Yorker are pulling back. "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. "Some are having great success with the advertising piece. It's becoming clear that it's not one size fits all."

Wired, for its part, hasn't found enough advertiser demand, Mr. Mittman said. "I'm interested in ways to bring advertisers in front of our community," he said. "When Flipboard becomes that , I would love to reengage and reinvigorate our product. Until then, we have to wait and see and not allow intermediaries to build their own platforms without direct monetizable benefit back to us."

The New Yorker just doesn't have enough time to sell Flipboard ads after it pitches advertisers and agencies on the traditional magazine, its iPad edition and the website. "We have to focus on our business, and that 's a lot of stuff to get through on a sales call, a lot of opportunities," said Ms. Hughes, the New Yorker publisher. "People are really excited about what's happening on the web for us and on the tablet. It's just one more thing we can't get to on the sales call."

"It's just off-strategy for us," she added.

The New Yorker could reverse course again down the road, Mr. Hughes emphasized. "We'll see how our business evolves and how their business evolves," she said. "There might be a point in the future where we change our minds."

The Flipboard spokeswoman said she hoped that will happen. "We really and truly in our hearts believe that there's an opportunity for them to make a lot of money," she said. "Can we prove that in six months? No. It's going to take some time."

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