In this age of social media, many of us have multiple social media accounts. In the attempt to follow these accounts under a single interface, there are a number of news readers and aggregators out there. One of the more popular apps that accomplishes this task is Flipboard. This free app collects the content of social media and other websites and presents it in a magazine format that users “flip” through to browse their chosen feeds. An iOS version has been available since 2010, but an Android-based app just became available at the end of June. This free app combines news sources and social media streams into a single, easy-to-use interface.
After installing the app on your iOS or Android device, it is a good idea to set up a free Flipboard account. This allows you to sync content across multiple devices. Once you have done that, you select from a broad range of topics to appear on your Flipboard, including News, Business and Politics. You can also add news streams from your various social media accounts, such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter, as well as RSS feeds. Interestingly, Flipboard doesn’t sync with LinkedIn, a social networking site for professionals.
Each item you add to your Flipboard appears as a tile on Flipboard’s main interface. You tap on any of these tiles to access the underlying stories that you then “flip” through. Flipboard has also teamed up with publications such as The New York Times, which you can add to your Flipboard; this allows you to access the specific publication, instead of items on a single topic from multiple sources.
There is also a search function to help you identify RSS feeds that don’t appear in the main category lists. You can search for people, topics, websites and blogs. Searching for AAII, we were able to add several of our in-house Twitter feeds as well as the AAII YouTube feed.
While the app is reliant on an Internet connection—via Wi-Fi or cellular data plan—you can save pages for offline viewing if you have an Instapaper, Pocket or Readability account.
What Flipboard does—aggregate various social media and news streams into a single interface—isn’t new; but the way in which it does it is unique. We use Tweetdeck to monitor several hundred Twitter accounts. But Flipboard’s magazine-like format makes Twitter a true media outlet, especially if you follow a number of news-related accounts.
Overall, the interface is very clean and the operation very intuitive. It is extremely convenient to access disparate news items from a single location instead of having to visit multiple sites. For those who use Facebook or Twitter, the added benefit of being able to post status updates from within the Flipboard app is a nice touch. One other point worth mentioning is that Flipboard is a rarity among free apps in that it does not bombard you with advertising.
Flipboard is one of those apps that is truly fun to use, mainly because you can immediately see how it takes something as pervasive as Twitter and makes it even more useful. Unfortunately, even though the company trumpeted the fact that an Android version is now available, it is not compatible with Samsung Galaxy Tab or Motorola Xoom Android tablets. If you have an iOS device or a compatible Android device, Flipboard is definitely worth trying.