Flipboard, the social magazine app for iPad, has just launched its first advertising program in partnership with magazine publisher Condé Nast. This campaign displays ads alongside content from The New Yorker, Wired, and Bon Appétit. Later this year, Flipboard plans to expand the progam to other publishers, including independent publishers.
This ad program builds on Flipboard Pages, Flipboard's first step into content that's specific to the reading environment of its app. Instead of showing a Web view, Flipboard Pages display articles using "print-inspired layouts, typography and imagery" built for Flipboard. Beginning with the Condé Nast partnership, publishers can now easily intersperse full-page ads into the Flipboard versions of their content.
Regarding future ad partnerships, Christel van der Boom at Flipboard says, "We are already working with a number of publishers in our Flipboard Pages program that we announced in December."
We've been watching the business model take shape for social magazine apps like Flipboard, and, thus far, the space has proven difficult to monetize. The Flipboard app is free, and it doesn't charge users for subscriptions. Furthermore, users have historically resisted ads in their RSS readers.
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In light of Apple's tightening restrictions on in-app purchases, which has already forced some changes to major apps for distributing published content, revenue models aimed at reading apps like Flipboard may be a necessary complement, if not a replacement, for selling issues through standalone magazine apps.
Flipboard, of course, is not merely an RSS reader; it can pull content from a huge range of services, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn news feeds, as well as Flickr and Instagram photos. Flipboard also offers curated topical feeds of its own. Future plans include personalized story recommendations, as well as an iPhone version, but the company has not announced timelines for those products. Van der Boom says Flipboard is "shooting for late summer" for the iPhone app release.
American Express is the first advertiser, displaying its ads in The New Yorker, and Lexus will begin running ads in Wired and Bon Appétit in October.
The ads are full-page displays interspersed between content pages. Flipboard renders animated page flips, using the iPad's touchscreen to provide a magazine-like experience. Likewise, these static, full-page ads are reminiscent of magazines, but tap targets on the ads send the reader to the brand's website or social media page. Van der Boom says it's "too soon to say" whether the expected iPhone version will display these full-page ads.
It remains to be seen whether independent publishers will be able to take advantage of this ad model. It's one thing for Condé Nast, a worldwide publisher with existing advertising relationships and oceans of audience data, to test this new revenue stream with a top-of-the-market advertiser like American Express. But any Web feed, even free, hosted blogs, can be pulled into Flipboard. Will Flipboard open this program to smaller-scale advertisers, so that smaller-scale publishers can get in on the action?
"We're taking our first steps with Condé," van der Boom says, "and plan to grow the program with other publishers, including independent publishers."