Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

Is Flipboard’s Buzz Bad Timing or Good Marketing?

What do you think? Is this bad timing, a buzz-killing mistake, or artificial scarcity that creates more buzz?

I was in an email conversation recently with the founder of one of the coolest new news apps available on the iPad, and he asked me what I thought about Flipboard.

I’m guessing why he asked: all that buzz, all at once. This is an iPad app released last week. It’s supposed to integrate Twitter and Facebook,  with news and blogs, and a cool iPad look. In case you missed it, try this Google search. Nearly two million hits. Suddenly, everybody was talking about Flipboard.

Buzz envy. Who can blame him? Pardon my cynicism, but it doesn’t look that much different from the new Huffington Post app, or Apollo News, Pulse News, or Skygrid. So how did they get all that attention all at once? Have your marketing people study that one. It’s very impressive.

But here’s the business problem: timing. Wasting your buzz by not having your logistics ready for it. Take a look at what happens today, after you download your Flipboard, when you start to use it:

You guessed it: they’re taking email addresses and building a waiting list. “We’ll reserve your place in line,” they say. The bandwidth wasn’t set up to handle the marketing. I got interested, downloaded, and now have to wait for however long it takes to actually run the app. The buzz happened without delivery. Remember a few decades back, when people talked about vaporware? Credibility gone fast. Buzz wasted. What a shame.

Unless it actually works. After all, I just added another page to the buzz.

  • Thanks Tim. I am 100% with you on wanting to expand in an instant.

  • I haven’t investigated their marketing approach but wonder if the scale of the buzz around Flipboard was unintended. Sometimes companies reach for X number of people to test out their services for trials but word of mouth spreads and they have to deal with a lot more traffic to a site when they didn’t expect it.

    Would I be right in suggesting that you see this type of scalability issue amongst some businesses you work with Tim? It is quite strange but I have come across a number of cases where businesses failed because they hadn’t developed a contingency plan for growth nor had they developed systems that could deal with it. As a result they end up going bust because they can’t provide the services effectively.

    • Jay, interesting question. I remember in the so-called old days, when we were first introducing a facility to put a business plan on a password protected site on the web, we spent a lot of time making sure we had the bandwidth to meet demand before we spent the time and resources on the launch. It seems easier to me these days, with the cloud offering a lot more flexibility; but then I’m not as directly involved anymore, so I’m not as close to it. Ideally you want to be able to expand in an instant, right? So if the New York Times or TechCrunch or somebody lights it up, you can handle the traffic. Otherwise, it’s turning good news into bad news. Tim

  • I’ve spoken to a couple people who have used Flipboard and recommended it highly. Not much help to me as a non-iPad user but if their glowing reviews were anything to go by it should be a decent app once it pulls through again.