Posted on November 12, 2013 in Archive

Random House is moving content onto Flipboard

12Nov

Random House announced in September that they have started creating content for the news and social media aggregator application Flipboard, making them the first publishing house to do so. This is a daring, and I think exciting, development for digital publishing that I hope more publishers will catch onto.

For those not clued into Flipboard, the premise is simple. At the launch of the application, you choose what topics you want to read about (for example –  ‘celebrities’, ‘food’, ‘books’,  ‘news’, and your Facebook and twitter feeds), and Flipboard then collates and presents them for you on your tablet or smartphone in the form of a nifty looking personalised digital magazine.

Previously the majority of content was taken from related websites or feeds created by the Flipboard editorial team. However, now you can also read content from authors such as Margaret Atwood and George R.R. Martin under the ‘Book’, ‘Culture’, ‘Tech’ and ‘Flipboard Picks’ sections (just to name a few of the sections you can find them in) throughout the application.

This isn’t just old excerpts from Game of Thrones, though. New platforms need new material, after all! Margaret Atwood personally curated a magazine, ‘MaddAddam’s World’, inspired by her most recent novel, MaddAddam. The magazine contains articles with titles such as ‘The Science of Storytelling’ and ‘The Book of Barely Imagined Beings’, with 60 other articles available for perusal. This publication is obviously designed to enhance the theories found in Atwood’s work, rather than explore aspects such as characters or in-universe concepts.

While ‘MaddAddam’s World’ explores related content, ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ actually explores the Game of Thrones universe. Because George R.R. Martin takes an average 6 years to write one book, the magazine is curated by mega fansite Westeros.org, and does its best to meld the TV and book series together. New, previously unseen materials, news articles about the TV series, inevitable fan fiction/artwork and the added capability for integrating images and video are well used within Flipboard to create a unique reading and viewing experience for fans. The magazine also provides insights into the author and his other projects across the gaming, collectible and comic markets. I imagine that some people would download Flipboard just for the opportunity to gain access to this kind of material – something I’m sure the creators of Flipboard have anticipated.

Random House is clearly excited about these new opportunities. Scott Shannon, the publisher of digital content at Random House, had this to say about it – “George R.R. Martin has such a passionate fan base, an official Flipboard magazine is the perfect venue for fans to stay current on news as well as sample excerpts of GRRM’s work that they might not yet be familiar with.” So Random House is very excited to be promoting any of George R.R. Martin’s work as much as possible – and why not? He seems to be a hot ticket at the moment.

This kind of thing is a great way to enhance the reader experience, whether it be a chance to enhance the introduction to a rather complicated narrative such as the A Song of Ice and Fire series, or to fortify the knowledge of a stone cold fan. It also provides fans with more content to explore and share via social media. ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ also perfectly plays to the market of fans most likely to latch on and make it successful – tech-savvy science fiction and fantasy fans. Then again, it seems that Game of Thrones especially seems to be popular with almost everyone who has a TV (or an Internet connection), so the appeal for this kind of publication really is widespread.

Penguin Random House, and many other publishers out there, should be capitalising on the potential of this new platform for digital publishing. New content might not have to be confined to books anymore, or delayed for months and years waiting for the rest of the novel to be written… It could be Flipboarded! Keeping fans on tenterhooks is all well and good, but releasing snippets at a time could have potential, too – it would keep fans engaged for longer amounts of time rather than entirely engrossing them for shorter periods, and then having them move onto different books after a week or so while waiting for the next installment. I wasn’t kidding before about the length of time that GRRM takes to write one book – there was a six year gap between the two most recent publishing dates of his epic fantasy series. Fans were literally writing letters on the Internet, begging him to hurry up.

So come on, digital publishers! If you aren’t sure where to start – scrape together a few binned chapters, a map and some news tidbits from your most popular publication and stick it on Flipboard – you might open yourself up to a whole market of new readers. But please remember that though this is a great use of Flipboard, it isn’t just a new free way of publishing stuff – it’s about enriching an already existing reading experience.