It’s been a big week for Flipboard’s Google-related announcements. On Tuesday, the company revealed Google+ integration was coming to its social magazine, and today, the app is officially launching on all Android devices, including the Kindle Fire and the Nook. The Google+ integration, as well as newly added YouTube integration, is arriving today as well.
The app will be available in Google Play, the Amazon Appstore for Android, the Nook Store, and in Samsung Apps.
The Android public launch comes barely a month after Flipboard debuted its official Android beta and limited Android rollout as a preloaded app on the just-released Samsung Galaxy S III. However, it’s been just a little longer since Flipboard’s unofficial launch, thanks to the hacked version of the Android APK file from that same device.
Demand for the Android version of the app has been “astonishing,” says Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, who tells us that they saw over half a million downloads during its beta. “We’ve had really good coverage across a wide range of phones. We feel really good about how it’s coming together,” he says. “But people have been asking, why is this in beta? Why can’t you just release it now?”
The answer, of course, is because it’s an Android app, and that means there’s a bit more work involved. “With iOS, you can target a very specific screen size, a very specific processor and so on – it’s quite a bit easier,” McCue explains. “On Android, to really build a high-quality application that works across a range of devices, you have to spend a lot of time optimizing…that’s why we did the beta.” The new Android version works on all the major Android smartphones as well as the Nook and Kindle Fire, and supports from small screens up to a 7-inch display. It has also had some other performance and layout optimizations since the beta release.
Another new feature arriving on both iOS and Android today is YouTube integration. You can watch, favorite, bookmark and comment on videos within Flipboard, and those changes sync with the YouTube website itself. You can also follow users and the channels you subscribe to.
And Flipboard is also once again expanding to more countries. It was previously available in localized versions in China, Japan and France, but it’s now arriving in Korea, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Germany. “When we deploy to each country, we not only localize the app for each of these different languages, but more importantly, we focus our energy on the curation point-of-view in each country to pick the best content. We’ve now gotten more efficient at doing that,” says McCue. Next up on the list for localization are parts of Latin America, as well as other countries in Asia and Europe.
While the company is still declining to reveal hard numbers related to total downloads or revenue, McCue says that the move to smartphones has seen users engaging with the app throughout the day, instead of just at morning and night (8-11 PM, primarily) as on iPad. The Cover Stories feature, which launched first on smartphones and is now available via Android widget, is now the number one feed on Flipboard. He also says that Flipboard sees “very, very, very strong return-to-app metrics.”
“A lot of people are choosing us every single day, multiple times per day. This is very encouraging for us especially since we don’t do a lot with sending emails out to users, and we don’t do lots of noisy notifications,” says McCue. However, integrating push notifications is something the team is thinking about for the future, but they want to do it right when the time comes.
He also reports good progress on the advertising side of the business, which now has half a dozen publishers running ads on the platform, out of a total of 2,000 publications which have been integrated to date. Some recent advertisements have been for Converse, Nieman Marcus (the same ads as in Vogue, says McCue), and the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman.” That last one did particularly well, with a 3.5% CTR. It directed users not to a website, but a rather to an in-app page featuring the “Snow White and the Huntsman” Twitter feed in Flipboard’s signature magazine style, which users could then subscribe to in the app. However, all Flipboard’s CTRs are “much higher than anything you’d see on the web,” says McCue.
As for what’s next, beyond its continued international expansion, one glaring omission for a magazine so focused on attractive, visual layout of content is Pinterest integration. Pinterest rival The Fancy’s integration was complete six months ago but has yet to ship, so the holdup is clearly on Pinterest’s side of things. But Flipboard is hardly the only third party in desperate need of a Pinterest API. (Where is that thing already?) No official word on what networks may be added next, but Pinterest will surely make a big splash when and if it ever arrives.
The new Android and iOS versions of Flipboard are available for download here.