As of Thursday, New York Times subscribers can access the news organization’s content from within Flipboard, the aggregated magazine app for iPads and smartphones.
That’s news — even if you don’t subscribe to the Times. Here’s why.
It is the first time Flipboard has fully subsumed the content of any publisher, and it is “the first time that The Times has offered paid subscribers full access to its content off a Times platform.”
But it won’t be the last. The Times says this is only the first step in a new strategy called “NYT Everywhere,” which will put Times content on many third-party platforms.
There are at least four things journalists and publishers should be considering as this transition occurs.
1. 20 percent of New York Times readers use aggregation apps like Flipboard, website general manager Denise Warren told the Times’ own Bits blog. That’s in line with a recent industry-wide study that found 22 percent of digital-content subscribers preferred to access content through an all-in-one newsstand app.
That raises the question: If one in five people prefer Flipboard-style apps to news orgs’ own apps, does that mean this Flipboard integration could persuade some new people to pay for a Times subscription? That’s certainly the hope.
2. The importance of APIs. Simple RSS/XML feeds of content power most of Flipboard’s sections. But for a deeper integration like this one, it was important for the Times to offer a robust API that could serve content and authenticate subscriber accounts. Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told TechCrunch “we worked closely with The New York Times technical team to integrate their content APIs and authentication back-end so it’s very easy to log-in one time then browse all the content … This was a ground-up build and our first authentication integration.” (If I’ve lost you there, check out four reasons your news org should use APIs.)
3. Can smaller news orgs follow this path? The New York Times already has its own apps for iPad, iPhone and Android, even BlackBerry and Windows Phone. So Flipboard integration is just an added bonus for its tablet-toting subscribers. But smaller news media can’t afford so much custom app development, and now they may find a similar Flipboard partnership is a good way to make their content available to paying subscribers who want access on tablets.
4. Content vs. Customers. On the other hand, there is a potential risk to news organizations in the long-run with this general model.
If you believe the maxim that Content is King, then it makes sense for you to sell and license your content far-and-wide so long as you get paid for it. You fear no disruption from those who produce no content of their own.
It’s a different calculation, however, if you believe that Customers are King. In this model original content is just one method (along with conversation, curation and others) to build audience relationships. The relationships, however originated, hold the true value that can be monetized by other methods like advertising, sponsored content, discount deals, events and licensed user data.
If customers are more important than content, then there’s a real risk to a news publisher of becoming just one of many commoditized content creators while Flipboard and other middlemen control the customer relationship.
Citing such fears, Ad Age reports that Conde Nast magazines Wired and The New Yorker are pulling back their content from Flipboard.
“Our intention is to adapt our model to allow Flipboard users to know what content at Wired is out there. It will have a headline and a sentence leading to a URL. If digital consumers want to interact with Wired, they can do so at Wired.com and not through an intermediary,” Publisher Howard Mittman told Nat Ives.
Of course, the Times itself is not in any present danger. It has its own popular website and apps, and controls its own subscriber data and revenue. Flipboard integration is just a good experiment and a potential way to acquire new readers.
But it will be interesting to see where else this new NYT Everywhere strategy will carry Times content, and if it does someday change the very nature of what it means to “read The New York Times.”