Flipboard brings editorial curation to Mastodon with desks for news and discoveries

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Magazine app Flipboard is advancing its investment in the Fediverse — the distributed social media ecosystem that includes apps like Mastodon and others — with its recently announced plan to establish its first editorial offices to curate news for the wider federated community. Initially, the company will launch four agencies – News, Technology, Culture and Science – which it says will not be automated by bots, but instead by professional curators who have expertise in discovering and enhancing interesting content.

The company already knows the ins and outs of curation and has built an app that allows users to organize articles and updates, including those from social networks, into personalized journals that can also be shared with others.

But more recently, Flipboard has shifted its focus to embracing the open social web and the Fediverse, launching its own Mastodon server and announcing its plans to integrate more deeply with the ActivityPub, the protocol that powers a growing number of decentralized apps power. including open source Twitter alternative Mastodon.

Flipboard also added support for browsing Mastodon and interacting with its content in the 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 disabled their API integration for legacy apps, such as Flipboard, which had been using the microblogging service for some 13 years. Previously, 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 allows payment for some API access, the approach they have taken is prohibitively expensive, unreliable and downright unreliable,” McCue said at the time. “I can’t imagine that we or anyone else would ever rely on Twitter for anything again.”

Naturally, McCue and the Flipboard team had seen this moment coming and had already redirected the company from Twitter to Mastodon. His own server – or “instance” in Mastodon parlance – now has over 600 members. The company is positioning the instance as a “highly moderated, fast, secure and reliable” way for novice Mastodon users to join the Fediverse. When the instance launched in February, it was initially only open 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, regularly posting recommendations of interesting users to follow (#FollowFriday). McCue himself has also participated in events, such as FediForum’s virtual “unconference”, where Fediverse builders discussed a range of ideas and demonstrated their products.

Image Credits: Flipboard Mastodon screenshot

Now Flipboard is adding more value to the Mastodon community with its desks concept, which it says will deliver explanation and analysis, but won’t flood users’ feeds with “a kajillion posts.”

The new agencies will also help people find others to follow on Mastodon – something that can still be a challenge with the current setup.

“…Since it’s not always easy to find people in the Fediverse, we’ll be raising the voices of thoughtful writers, reporters and thinkers, and of course the publishers who join the conversation,” wrote Flipboard North America Editor-in-Chief Carl Sullivan , in a blog post. “In other words, you’ll see us promoting other people’s posts,” he noted.

The post explained how the different agencies will work. The News Desk will cover the top stories and investigative journalism of the day. The Tech Desk brings the latest technical news on topics such as 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 covers news on space travel, climate change and more.

The company tells us that the trustees who run the desks are the employees who manage the accounts with the same names in Flipboard’s own app. The team will publish 3 to 5 stories per day, but will also promote posts from other accounts on Mastodon to help with discovery.

“It’s early days for the Fediverse and one of the things we’ve heard over and over is that it’s hard to find great people and content,” said Flipboard communications head Christel van der Boom. “We believe in a federated future and as you know we are working towards full integration with ActivityPub. These agencies are a very first step in that direction and give us a way to learn with the community,” she added.

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