Flipboard: Dear Publishers, Let’s Think This Through

People are freaking out about iPad super-app Flipboard (a very nice RSS reader, if you’re not familiar). I don’t get it. I love the power of feeds and I like Flipboard a lot. As a content creator, it sounds like a blessing to me. The service even shows the ads we put in our RSS feeds. (I just looked, ours are there.) What’s not to love?

I suppose people say it robs publishers of pageviews. Here’s the math I do in my head. If 1 million people read 10 of your articles and 5% of the time they will click through to see your site itself – that’s 500,000 free pageviews you just got. Did you have some other plan in mind that would bring those million people to your content but with a higher conversion rate? Did Flipboard cannibalize your existing plan? I suspect that’s not how it goes down – instead 1m people are exposed to your content that wouldn’t have been otherwise. That sounds win-win to me.

Who am I to say this? I do publish content for a living. Though I don’t own the business I do it for – I have led the growth of that site from a 3 person staff to now 15. Publishing tech news content. That’s where I’m coming from.

I love finding Twitter lists like a good curated collection of Anthropologists or GeoTech pros and subscribing to the links they share on Twitter inside Flipboard.

Maybe there are concerns that I’m missing. Somebody tell me the rest of the story.

Thoughts on the Future of Social Media Value Creation

I am at the San Francisco airport headed home and super excited about the Twitter/Mediasift announcement today. I posted a couple of cryptic tweets that I thought I’d flesh out a little bit here, inspired by the news.

* I believe we’ll look back at these days when social media search is primarily for brand monitoring like geocities “under construction”

By this I mean that there are so many more things to search for on the social web than just brand reputation monitoring – people talking about you. That’s clearly what most people are interested in today but I think in the future we’ll see that there’s far more value to glean from discovery of communities of interest, the nature of their interest, patterns and correlations, changing connections over time, weak bonds and weak signals, early hints and wise ruminations. Maybe thinking the world will find wise ruminations of value is a stretch. 😉

But my point is, there are so many more opportunities online beyond covering-your-ass that I think someday the focus on that will seem silly. Give me an introduction to a new voice articulating where the world might be tomorrow and I’ll trade a chance to hear ten utterances by people about me today. Right?

* I believe that someday soon, creation of keyword lists for group discovery will be a hot part of our industry

Finding or ranking influencers is getting hot already, but determining what keywords can help outline a relevant community of interest when found in their discussion remains a big unmet challenge. There’s too much content being produced every moment and producers are so disinterested in structuring their own communication that the creation or discovery of the structure of a community and its communication is most likely to happen from the outside in, I think. At least in large part.

What language do people use that designates them as belonging to a particular community? Lately I’ve been hunting for Twitter Lists of employees of certain companies. Sometimes those lists are called Team, Staff or Work. Sometimes not. In less structured environments, what language gets used casually that can be used to draw a line between a group being watched vs not, between people relevant to a particular query or not.

That Mediasift allows developers to filter the Twitter fire hose for the presence of 10k keywords for the entry level price makes me picture a query like “who are the community of people who use these 10k keywords on Twitter?”. Creation of that list of keywords, to discover a small group inside a group of hundreds of millions of Twitter users just by the language they use, that’s a technology opportunity if you ask me.

* I believe someday NLP (natural language processing) parsing of business from social messages will make both and the stream much more valuable

How much personal communication is appropriate in a business context? That’s what people always want to know in a new medium. Both are valuable and important though. I think someday we’ll have technologies that will be able to tell the difference and give me control over how to view it all. Let’s say I just discover someone who is business relevant to me. I my say “show me a profile of their interests and circumstances on a personal level, but interrupt me during working hours if they post business-relevant messages.”. Or vice-versa.

Such analysis would mke the personal more valuable because we could appreciate it. It would make the business more valuable because the signal to noise ratio would change and allow us to capture more of the must-read content, depending on the nature of our relationship. Both put separately and summarized would mke awesome context.

Plane boarding, just some initial articulation of some thoughts!

Related: See my recent RWW post on How to Track the Future of the Music Industry (Or Almost Anything Else)