TechCrunch is like most other publications founded before 2011 in that our readers have gone mobile way faster than our products have. In 2010, 10 percent of our readers were reading us from mobile devices. With the launch of a mobile-friendly version of our website, as well as an increasing breadth of new native apps and mobile magazine Flipboard, mobile platform readers now represent 35 percent of our total traffic.
Which is why we’re particularly excited about Flipboard‘s new version coming out tonight.
The company is already aggregating our content into a beautiful new format while actually trying to help us develop our mobile business. It provides a solid chunk of our mobile traffic now, and today it has some 50 million total (not monthly unique) visitors.
The new version pushes its mission forward in two key ways: universal content search and a way for anyone to create their own “magazine.” Think of the latter feature as a much sexier personalized homepage than iGoogle and its ilk that you can share with the world.
Let’s say you, a TechCrunch reader, want to create your own magazine. You’re mainly visiting us for posts about 3D printing, like this one by John Biggs about a couple of guys who made a robot hand for a boy born without fingers. Using either a new Flipboard bookmarklet (here) while browsing the web, or the + button now appearing on any story in Flipboard, you pull the robot hand story into a magazine editor window. You’ll then be presented with options to create a new magazine starting with this article or add it to existing ones.
If you choose to make a new magazine, you’ll also be able to enter a name, description and category for it to enable easier distribution.
Then, Flipboard adds the article headline, body text, images, and any available audio or video. In this case, you’d get the story image, as well as the YouTube video that Biggs had embedded about the robot hand.
The story will appear as the lead in your magazine. Attribution to the original publisher is maintained. Any interactions from your readers, including commenting, retweeting and liking, shows up in the original social network.
You can also add as many article links, images, videos and soundtracks as you want, creating a permanent record of all your favorite 3D printing stories. If you want to change the cover image and story of your magazine, you can just tap and hold any item to promote it.
This isn’t just about news content, though. Flipboard also has a new partnership with Etsy, which lets you pull in items for sale on the handmade marketplace. This would let you pull in your favorite homey 3D objects from its store for your magazine, like this handy spoon rest.
A little Pinteresty, sure, but founder Mike McCue tells me that he still thinks the biggest business will be in ads (which includes revenue splits with, in full disclosure, publications like TechCrunch). The affiliate model is intriguing, though, and you can see how it could expand this type of affiliate relationship to other e-commerce sites.
Once you have your magazine going, you can share it to Facebook, Twitter and other social services. A new sidebar feature, marked by a red ribbon in the main interface, shows you all your subscriptions, your own magazines, and any notifications from other users interacting with you across the site (including your own magazines). It also shows you curated categories like “News,” “Business” and “By Our Readers” to further help discovery.
But the content search part will likely be the biggest cross-promotion driver. There’s now a search box at the top of each page, based on people, topic or hashtag. If you click through it you’ll get a Flipboard-style magazine format of all of your search results, which you can then browse through or add to your own magazines.
Stepping back from all the details, my biggest issue with the new version is that it commoditizes great design. Just like a rash of personalized homepage and “daily newspaper” web startups let any user curate anything — usually in meaningless ways —the Flipboard features are certainly going to lead to garbage user creations.
The company has thought that through pretty well, though. Popular user magazines will float to the top of the recommended sections. And those of us who create content for a living get some added features — beyond monetization, these include sidebar modules so readers can flip to different sections. These are currently based on RSS feeds, so TechCrunch readers will be able to sort by “Startup,” “Mobile,” “Venture” and other versions of our feed once we get this set up.
Overall, Flipboard is already delivering the usage numbers that we hope for from an aggregator. Monetization is starting to kick in as advertisers come to appreciate the superior mobile browsing experience.
The features in this new version, meanwhile, should only increase distribution, as readers discover more of our content and think of new ways to remix it to their own tastes. You can get it now in the App Store if you have an Apple device (support for other OSes coming later).