Flipboard Mimics Magazines Further With A Shift To Structured Content, Revamped “Cover Stories”

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Social magazine Flipboard is rethinking how it organizes content for readers. Today the company is revamping “Cover Stories,” the section within Flipboard that highlights the best and most popular content from across your subscriptions.

This feature was initially developed using technology Flipboard acquired several years ago from Ellerdale, an early semantic web startup. The system is designed to surface not just the trending content that others are sharing or clicking on, but also content that’s most relevant to you based on your own interactions (separate from general popularity).

Before today, Cover Stories would offer a mix of articles and social updates from your subscriptions and networks, but the selection could come across, at best, as an eclectic gathering of news and, at worst, as something of a chaotic mess. Now, that changes.

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“In the early days, we did a great job at presenting content in a way that’s magazine-like, but what we haven’t done yet is structure that content in a way that feels like a magazine. That’s what we’re starting to do now,” explains Flipboard co-founder and CEO Mike McCue.

With the revamped Cover Stories section, you’re still able to flip through the section as usual, but the content is more ordered. Navigation on the right side of the screen shows you a list of “sections” based on your favorite sources. This list is led by “Flipboard Picks,” the service’s own recommended content.

For example, you might have the top stories from The New York Times, followed by a couple of blogs you frequent, then sections dedicated to the trending activity on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Over time, Flipboard will learn what sections you engage with the most and will feature those more prominently here, the company tells us.

Flipboard is also starting to think about how it can better organize articles by something other than just source (i.e. publisher). It wants to smartly group articles by subject matter, too. You’ll start seeing this roll out now, beginning with Flipboard’s editorially curated magazine “The Weekend.” Here, articles will be grouped into sections like “Now in Theaters,” “What’s on TV,” “Sports Weekend,” “Sunday Reads” and more.

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This idea of structuring Flipboard content more like a real magazine, the company explained to us last week while demoing the beta, will eventually roll out to all of Flipboard’s editorial content over time. Today, the company curates a number of editorial sections ranging across categories like News, Business, Tech, Sports, Shopping, Photos, Arts & Culture, Travel, Food & Dining, Style, Music, Books, and much more.

The challenge for Flipboard going forward is to make sure its users continue to explore their larger collection of subscriptions, where their activity can help inform the “Cover Stories” algorithm as to their interests.

Most users subscribe to around a dozen sources of content, but some users have hundreds, we’re told. These more voracious news readers could end up relying on “Cover Stories” to get their mix of news, but having to work their way through the section source by source could mean they might miss those sources they only occasionally visit since they’ll now be down at the bottom of the navigation, instead of serendipitously mixed in with other articles from top sources.

That, however, will change in time. The company promises that the Cover Stories section will become more adaptive over time, and it will figure out how to throw “a few surprises” in there, too. It will also begin to group sections more topically, similar to how magazines like “The Weekend” are now being structured. But Flipboard isn’t prepared to go into much detail about those future changes because nothing is yet set in stone.

The new “Cover Stories” section is not going live immediately for all users, but will be a gradual rollout over the next week or two, the company says.