Last month, Josh Marshall over at TPM posted two great articles about them no longer partnering with Flipboard: "Are Operations Like Flipboard Scams Against Publishers?" and "All Hail Flipboard?" (both worth reading).
You can't eat 'reach' and we can't pay salaries with 'brand awareness'. I don't pretend to know other people's business models or strategies. But successful business practices are always about having a close understanding of the costs of what you produce and the origins and mechanics of your revenues and more than anything else the interaction between the two.
From where we sit, in their current incarnations, these services are basically scams. I think their success is largely a matter of publishers being snowed by the mass transformations in publishing and particularly digital publishing and not being able to keep their heads about them.
I wholeheartedly agree with him. Many of the things publishers do in the digital world aren't really useful, especially when 'partnering' with social channels (TV and Twitter anyone?). It's more the result of media executives being so lost about what the digital world is all about that they chase whatever shiny object comes their way.
There are exceptions, of course, but most of the times it's just not good business. I wouldn't go so far as to call Flipboard a scam, because that would imply ill-intent. And I think Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard, is trying to do the best he can.
But let's discuss when or how it might be useful to partner with other sites, and when it wouldn't. As Josh wrote: "There's no single digital news publishing model. [...] Different sites have different editorial and business strategies."
No matter what business you are in, the most optimal path you can have, both in terms of revenue, cost, and profit, is one that is 100% direct. A path with no outside steps between you and your customers.
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