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How data helps Flipboard improve the user experience

Tara Dezao
Director of Content and Creative Services, Oracle Data Cloud

Flipboard is a platform where users aggregate all their interests and passions in singular feeds with curated content. They reach more than 100MM people around the world each month. They love helping people read amazing content tightly tied to their interests or passions, whether it’s something in their professional or personal lives. 

We talked with Cecily Mak, Chief Revenue Officer & General Counsel, Flipboard Inc. to discover the ways in which Flipboard improves the 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 most 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 and 10 pm, with increased engagement for a significant portion of our users. We actually call it “personal primetime.” 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.

About Cecily Mak

In her capacity as Flipboard’s CRO, Cecily oversees innovation and operations across the company’s global business teams, including direct sales, revenue strategy, business development and publisher relations. As General Counsel, Cecily is responsible for all of the company’s legal matters.

Before joining Flipboard, Cecily held leadership positions at Rhapsody and RealNetworks. Cecily has taught Digital Media Law since 2006 as Adjunct Professor at University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She was on Digital Media Wire list of “25 Executives to Watch in Digital Entertainment” and named “Woman Leader in Tech Law” by The Recorder

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