Flipboard brings editorial curation to Mastodon with ‘desks’ for news and discovery
Magazine app Flipboard is furthering its investment in the Fediverse — the distributed social media ecosystem that includes apps like Mastodon and others — with its newly announced plan to establish its first editorial desks to curate news for the wider federated community. Initially, the company will launch four desks — News, Tech, Culture, and Science — which it says won’t be automated by bots, but instead by professional curators who have expertise in discovering and elevating interesting content.
The company already understands the ins and out of curation, having built an app that lets users organize articles and updates, including those from social networks, into personalized magazines which can also be shared with others.
But more recently, Flipboard has shifted its focus to embracing the open social web and the Fediverse, with the launch of its own Mastodon server and announcement of its plans to more deeply integrate with the ActivityPub, the protocol powering a growing number of decentralized apps, including open source Twitter alternative Mastodon.
Flipboard also added support for browsing Mastodon and engaging with its content in its magazine app, after Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk revoked API access for a range of third-party services, including Flipboard. Earlier this month, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue shared that Twitter had turned off their API integration for longtime apps, like Flipboard, which had been working with the microblogging service for some 13 years. Before, Flipboard users could view tweets in the app and add them to their magazines. Now, Flipboard says it won’t work with Twitter after Musk changed the pricing for its API to cut out smaller developers.
“While Twitter is enabling payment for some API access, the approach they’ve taken is prohibitively expensive, unreliable and frankly untrustworthy,” McCue said at the time. “I can’t imagine us or anyone else ever relying on Twitter again for anything.”
Of course, McCue and the Flipboard team had seen this moment coming and had already redirected the company away from Twitter and toward Mastodon. Its own server — or “instance” in Mastodon lingo — now has over 600 members. The company is positioning the instance as a “highly moderated, fast, secure and reliable” way for first-time Mastodon users to join the Fediverse. When the instance launched in February, it was initially open only to Flipboard’s top curators, but the company aims to slowly scale it up to thousands of members over time.
The Flipboard Mastodon account has also become an active participant in the community, posting regular recommendations about interesting users to follow (#FollowFriday). McCue himself has also taken part in events, like the FediForum virtual “unconference” where Fediverse builders discussed a range of ideas and demoed their products.
Now, Flipboard is adding more value to the Mastodon community with its desks concept, which it says will deliver explainers and analysis, but not flood users’ feeds with “a kajillion posts.”
The new desks will also help people find others to follow on Mastodon – something that can still be a challenge with today’s setup.
“…Because it’s not always easy to find people in the Fediverse, we will elevate the voices of thoughtful writers, reporters and thinkers, and of course the publishers who are joining the conversation,” wrote Flipboard North America managing editor Carl Sullivan, in a blog post. “In other words: you’ll see us boosting posts by others,” he noted.
The post explained how the different desks will work. The News Desk will cover the day’s top stories and investigative journalism. The Tech Desk will bring the last tech news across topics like AI, social media, and other impactful innovations. The Culture Desk will highlight interviews, reviews, and features in the arts and entertainment space. And the Science Desk will cover news in areas like space, climate change, and more.
The company tells us that the curators running the desks are the employees who curate the accounts with the same names on Flipboard’s own app. The team will feature 3 to 5 stories per day but will also boost posts from other accounts on Mastodon to aid in discovery.
‘It’s early days for the Fediverse and one of the things we’ve heard over and over again is that it’s hard to find great people and content,” a Flipboard spokesperson said. “We believe in a future that’s federated and as you know we’re working towards full integration with ActivityPub. These Desks are a very first step into that direction and offer us a way to learn with the community,” they added.