Flipboard, an app for iOS, Android and the web, has long been one of my favorite ways to read online news, mainly because of the way it displays stories.
Lots of apps try to mimic the layout of glossy magazines, but Flipboard has always been far more than just an attempt to be as good as a print magazine. It takes full advantage of the way smartphones and tablets can display pages by allowing you to “flip” from one page to another. It’s so good, some publications have built Flipboard’s display technology into their own apps to make reading more pleasant. Still, I also give Flipboard credit for having a robust website as well. Maybe I’m a dying breed, but I still prefer to read my news on a computer screen if one is handy.
Flipboard has long allowed users to customize the content of their online magazines –- picking from different publications and blogs along with specific topics of interest like technology or photography. But in a new version for the iPhone, Android and the web, released on Wednesday, the app now allows even greater customization.
As before, you can select topics, but now you can also select subtopics for a more granular selection. For example, you could just follow “technology” but you could also pick a subtopic such as “drones,” “wearable tech” or “virtual reality.”
In sports, you can select “find a team” and then pick the San Francisco 49ers or Golden State Warriors. When I picked Warriors, I was offered even more granular topics, including Stephen Curry. Lots of people are interested in photography and you can find plenty of content on that topic, but some people may want to focus on a particular brand of camera, like Canon or Nikon, and that’s now easy to do on Flipboard.
Flipboard calls this selection process the “passion picker” as if to emphasize its philosophy that people don’t just want news and information, they want to follow their passions. The new Flipboard also features personalized “smart magazines” that anyone can curate. It’s now possible to specify a series of topics, subtopics or sources and have the magazine built on-the-fly by Flipboard’s algorithms, which will fill it with stories that meet the criteria, including news, opinion, expert commentary and curated sources. And, like Spotify playlists, you have the option to share those magazines so others can follow them.
While I’m a big fan of customization, I am concerned about how granularizing news and information could lead to a myopic view of the world.
When you pick up a traditional printed newspaper or magazine, I think it’s a good thing that you have to at least pass by front page or the cover as you flip through on your way to your favorite section. With online news sources, you can sometimes skip directly to a section or story without even going to the site’s home page. Having a strong interest in the sports section, the business section or even the comics is great, but there is something to be said for at least glancing at the “front page,” where editors typically place the most important stories of the day.
When it involves reputable news, that not only gives you the real news, but helps readers be part of a larger community that shares the same information, even if they may have differing levels of interest and perspectives.
The very existence of Flipboard’s new customizable magazines encourages people to dive deeply into subjects they’re passionate about and even allows them to pick sources that reinforce their own point of view. For example, under politics, you can pick sources with a “Liberal POV” or “Conservative POV,” or even those that focus on your favorite politician.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to read content that reflects your world view, I think our democracy is stronger if we are also exposed to other viewpoints. It’s one of the reasons I often channel surf between CNN, Fox News and MSNBC and seek out opinion columnists from the right and left as well as the center.
In an interview, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue said that he is committed to providing users with the big stories of the day, and when I just opened the app I found some important stories about the political battles going on in Washington, D.C., as well as major international stories.
So, by all means configure Flipboard or Google News so you can explore your passions, but please pay attention to headline news, from at least a couple of diverse and reputable sources. I know we’ll never go back to the day when everyone in town read the same local newspapers and watched one of three evening news show, but I hope we never get the point where we don’t share some common understanding of what’s happening in the world.
Published at Thu, 09 Feb 2017 16:40:00 +0000