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Social News App Flipboard Aims to Be Even More Like a Magazine

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Flipboard has long professed to be the world’s first social magazine, a mobile-focused app serving up stories tailored to your interests.

But soon enough, Flipboard will begin to act more like a magazine.

In the coming weeks, Flipboard plans to slowly roll out features that will shape its current design to be more like traditional print publications, an addition to its already paper-like, flippable layout.

Currently, Flipboard magazine readers primarily access Flipboard content — a mix of news stories, photos, audio and social network content — via a paginated layout on their mobile devices; users “flip” through pages with a swipe of the finger. Thus far, timeliness has primarily reigned supreme; that is, the more recently the story is shared or published, the likelier it is you’ll see it.

In the new rollout, Flipboard wants to restructure the way users approach their media, adding a table of contents to the front of the “book,” a way for users to jump to specific topics like technology or long-form content or app highlights. That’s where the new sections come in, grouping together clusters of similar content for users to peruse.

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue likens it to the way a magazine editor approaches layout. “It’s like a Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve got appetizers at the front of the book, maybe a salad as you go in, then big features situated in the middle,” he said.

The move speaks to one of Flipboard’s existential issues since its inception, one that is shared by many news and social companies: The question of prioritizing real-time content over the so-called “best” content available. “It’s the question of what we call the ‘latest vs. the greatest,'” McCue said. “People don’t want one or the other. They want both. But for us, that presents a huge design problem that we’ve struggled with since our beginning.”

This is the direction we should expect from Flipboard in the future: A restructuring of content by theme and “quality,” curated by a mix of algorithms, professional editors and users in a well-presented, magazine-like layout.

It’ll be interesting to see how McCue’s vision for the future of his company plays out, especially as other entrants to the field have sprung up. Prismatic relies heavily on algorithms, while Circa and Yahoo’s News Digest focus on the human element of curation. And as I reported previously, Facebook is working on a secret app, Paper, that will enlist the aid of human curators in picking top content for its users.

Users should expect to see the new version of Flipboard appear in the next few days, and can choose to opt out in the settings menu of the app.

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