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Flipboard, Finally an RSS Reader for the Masses?

January 4, 2011

iPad users got an early holiday present in the form of a new version of Flipboard, the “App of the Year” on iPad. While there are lots of new features, the biggest was Google RSS Reader integration. Let’s take a deeper look at the implications for marketers of this functionality.

If you have not played with it, from Flipboard you can click on the “+ add a section” and see many new content options. After selecting Google Reader and entering your credentials your RSS content is now presented like all other Flipboard content enabling rapid content consumption via flip, expand, etc. The default organization is time based, but the top pull down allows navigation by feeds/folders.

There is the ability to share, star as well as post to Twitter, and Facebook. Another nice feature is the ability to take any feed and make it a top level “section.”  

There are some other limitation for RSS power users, most notably that content is only marked “read” in Google Reader if you open the content item. But just as Flipboard is not for power Twitter users, Flipboard is not (yet?) for power RSS users. And that may be a great thing.

A common complaint with RSS is that it “feels like work” to people. These people feel a need to play “whack a mole” with their feeds getting unread items down to zero. So they prefer the TV/Radio-like experience of Social Networks – dipping in during free moments and not worrying about what they might miss.  That sort of casual engagement is good for big usage numbers on the networks, but not great for those B-B marketers with complex products or B-C marketers with personalized offers. Thus, people tend to use RSS is for things they need to do their job or live their life which leads to a more engaged subscriber.

But perhaps Flipboard has the opportunity to bring RSS mainstream. It can take advantage of the greater volume of richer RSS content without the perceived “work.” The most significant limitation to this future is that you need to have Google Reader set up to get RSS into Flipboard. Let’s hope Flipboard is working on an “add to Flipboard” button (and SimpleFeed is happy to help!).

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