Carr and Quittner on Flipboard: A Trusted Wingman for Publishers?

For those who skipped Monday morning’s keynote at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo featuring an interview of Flipboard Editorial Director Josh Quittner by famed New York Times columnist/reporter David Carr, you missed quite a conversation.

The pair enjoyed playful banter throughout the nearly one-hour conversation with Quittner playing the technological foil to Carr who expressed reluctant acceptance that digital is infringing on his valued print newspaper business model.

“We put the white paper out to get the green paper back.” said Carr.

To Carr’s credit, his stance has softened during the last couple of years as he proclaimed his love of Flipboard, a social content aggregator that was named the 2010 App of the Year by Apple. In fact, his description of how Flipboard integrates into his professional and personal life exhibited the same sardonic wit that he naturally delivers in his columns.

“I compare Flipboard to feeling like the schlubby guy who is sitting at the bar and then a good-looking, square-shouldered guy named Mr. Flipboard walks in and says he wants to be my wingman,” Carr said. “The problem is you don’t know if this person is really a friend or foe.”

Carr is still holding tight to his print roots, while at least dipping his toe into the digital world, but Quittner, a former newspaper man himself, is all-in on digital.

Flipboard’s editorial guru admitted to going through a range of emotions after leaving Time Inc., and making the drastic career change, equating it to experiencing the five stages of death. However, Quittner also admitted he saw something was wrong with the journalism industry that he loved and the opportunity to join Flipboard and change the way we consume media was too appealing to turn down.

One theme the pair revisited during their chat was whether or not Flipboard’s aggregation was taking content away by marginalizing traditional journalists. Carr said they are while Quittner said content still needs to be created to be curated.

“It is replacing our role as curators.” declared Carr who said he uses Flipboard as an interface with his Twitter account.

“Publishers have to develop a model where their content can be distributed or scraped as much as possible as long as it can be monetized,” Quittner retorted.

The conversation wasn’t solely about debating whether Flipboard is or isn’t infringing on the role of journalists.

Quittner revealed that Facebook is the most frequently accessed media source from Flipboard, followed by Twitter and then its magazine partners.

He also shared that Flipboard has been downloaded nearly 80 million times with a goal of reaching 100 million by year’s end … and it isn’t sitting idle. Quittner said reader sessions are 8-10 times longer on Flipboard than the average web session.

Revenue was also a key topic with Quittner explaining that their ad model is currently in limited release to select partners to perfect the process. But, Flipbaord will only make money when their publishing partners sell advertising first.

“We want to make certain publishers successful before we roll it out to everybody,” said Quittner. “We will be rolling out more ad options later this year.”

Quittner also said in time, Flipboard will be made available to more content creators so virtually anyone will be able to have a presence.

Nothing was ultimately settled during the conversation about the role of Flipboard and its effect on journalism, but Carr made sure he had the last word, and he took the high road while doing so.

“Flipboard is a a great consumer app and I thank you for it.”

Many people agree.

Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.

MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.

MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at Contact Ron by e-mail at, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.

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