Full disclosure: I have friends who work at Flipboard.
Are Operations Like Flipboard Scams Against Publishers?
That said, I do think these services, as they currently exist are bad for publishers. We give them the entirety of our product - news stories, updates, posts, what-have-you - in exchange for a notional thing called exposure, brand awareness, blah blah blah and in theory or at some point in the future a cut of the ad revenues these services bring in for selling ads on their platforms. The problem is there are no ad revenues that go to the publishers. Where they exist they are literally trivial. The real payoff is supposed to be reach, letting new potential readers know we're out there. In theory, that's particularly important for small publishers like TPM who don't have big budgets for promotional campaigns. You're not going to see a big TPM ad on a bus you see drive by.
But say, you find TPM on Flipboard, decide it's great and add it to your viewing routine on Flipboard. Probably you just keep reading us on Flipboard. Clearly you like Flipboard or you wouldn't be using it. So why would you start visiting TPM? You likely won't. That may be great for you. It's definitely great for Flipboard. But is it great for us? Not really. It boosts my ego, I guess. And more people may know about us. But where and how does that turn into our ability to convert that 'audience' into a revenue stream that allows us to create our product? I don't think it does. Or it does in so trivial and unquantifiable way as to be meaningless.
What I hear from some is, "Well, I just read Flipboard and I don't have the time to visit a bunch of different sites. So you're cutting off your nose to spite your face because you're going to lose out on the audience I represent." Well, that's the key. That audience has nothing to do with us as a healthy news operation. We have no relationship with you. We don't know about you in terms of how often you visit. When we tell advertisers how many people read our stuff we can't include you in the number because we don't know about you and really why would they care since ads we run don't appear there. Most of all there's no revenue stream tied to your readership.
Now, for individual readers I get that this is a bummer. And I don't like the fact that we're inconveniencing individual people. At some level this may also make me and 'us' sound terribly mercenary: anyone who reads has to be sending us some revenue stream, either via ads or subscriptions or or by helping us leverage one of those first too. But TPM is a business that costs millions of dollars a year to run. In the immortal words of Steve Martin, it's a profit deal! Or to put it more precisely in TPM terms, it's a solvency deal.