Marketing | June 23, 2017

How Data Helps Flipboard Improve User Experience

By: Guest Author


By: Tara DeZao

Flipboard is a platform that allows users to aggregate all their interests and passions in singular feeds with curated content. Flipboard reaches more than 100 million people around the world each month.

We talked with Cecily Mak, Flipboard’s chief revenue officer and general counsel, to discover how Flipboard improves user experience using data and delivers value to advertisers. This article was originally published in The Data Summit 2017 thought leadership journal

Oracle: How does Flipboard connect with its users?

Cecily Mak: Because we are all about developing a platform where people can discover content they’re most interested in, we’re always determining ways to better target content that’s going to intrigue, delight and inspire those reading on the platform. For example, we have a 30K-topic graph by which we map all the content across Flipboard. We use both direct and passive behaviors of our users to determine what they may want to read next. This is a heavily data-driven exercise. By customizing our content feeds for our users, we allow them to find content that is delightful, inspiring and informative, regardless of what feed they’re in or what time of day and what they come to look for then. 

Oracle: How does Flipboard leverage third-party data?

Cecily Mak: One of the most exciting things we’ve done in the last two years is to take our first-party data, which is our 30K-topic interest graph, and map it against third-party data. This helps us learn more about what our users might want to read beyond what they have explicitly told us they’re interested in.

We had an experience recently with a large tech company investing in marketing their on-demand music product. They were trying to figure out what audience to reach on the Flipboard platform and elsewhere. Who are the ideal potential customers to reach with their quality brand advertising? Through our work with them, and leveraging third-party data, we actually discovered that people who are into music and signal they like to read about music and follow music news also tend to skew toward interest in DIY, street style, or niche cuisine recipes. We helped that partner make better decisions about how to reach potential buyers and subscribers of their products, and also deepened our partnership with them.

Meanwhile, when those DIY readers in a passion feed on Flipboard encounter a music-brand advertising graphic or video or whatever it might be, it’s complementary to what they’re reading and they’re actually intrigued to learn more about what the offering might be. In this case, everybody wins.

Oracle: Has data led you to any unexpected discoveries about your user base?

Cecily Mak: One interesting thing we discovered is there is a window of time in the evening, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., with increased engagement for a significant portion of our users. We actually call it “personal prime time.” It’s that time of day when the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, your work email is shut down and you’re actually looking for content about your interests and passions. It might be planning a vacation, investing in a new car, contemplating a move, learning more about your paddle boarding hobby or whatever it might be.

In that moment, we see this incredible peak in usage, which helps us understand why we are an ideal platform for brand advertising. We are not trying to get people to click and buy on Flipboard. Rather, we’re reaching this high-end, premier audience in this moment of intent.

This is a fantastic place for our brand advertisers to reach an audience and connect with them, or drive an emotional reaction to a beautiful image. This is a real differentiator for our business and it’s informed by studying the data behind the usage patterns, the time of day and which days our dedicated users are the most active.

Oracle: How does Oracle Data Cloud fit into your data strategy?

Cecily Mak: We’ve been working with Oracle Data Cloud for a couple of years. In fact, the products our teams appreciate the most in building our data-informed interest targeting are Datalogix and BlueKai. Our sales team is working with our own in-house experts to layer our data and insights against those we’re able to license from Oracle Data Cloud, to develop a robust, informed insights package to help us deepen our relationships with our most valued brand partners. This work is only growing. We’re doing more each quarter, and learning how to better use the data and better partner with the teams. It’s been a real asset to our business growth.


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