Flipboard and Medium are not fighting for app v.s. web supremacy

Yes, apps and web have different features and user experiences. Yes, some people prefer one over the other. Yes, we love to talk about this fact endlessly. And yes, Flipboard is a mobile app, and Medium is a website – as PandoDaily pointed out last week:

So if you’re looking for a contest to watch as the “native vs Web” debate ramps up, keep your eyes on these two. Are you a Flipboard or a Medium?

Sure – keep your eye on them, but either’s success or failure is irrelevant to the question. There is no native apps v.s. web death cage match going on with Flipboard and Medium as combatants.

The two products may be chasing the same readers, but they are targeting very different authors, and that content strategy is what drives their platform choices.

A few of the content-specific differences:

Flipboard

  1. Aggregated content
  2. Content largely generated by legacy media organizations
  3. Content is available elsewhere on the open web
  4. Discovery of content happens only within the app

Medium

  1. Original content
  2. Content created by individual contributors
  3. Content is initially unique to Medium
  4. Discovery of content occurs through multiple social and SEO channels.

Would Flipboard work on the web? It might. But only in direct competition with the websites of its legacy media partners. Being confined to an app and lacking social and SEO referrals is a feature not a bug.

Would Medium work as an app? It might. But without social or search engine discovery it would have a challenge attracting contributors and readers. The perceived usability advantage of apps would be useless.

For publishers, having platform choice is an opportunity to serve different audiences (and potentially different content) with different technologies, business models and user experiences. For many, deploying both platforms is the right answer.

But for now, if the web works better for your business, great. And vice versa. Each brings specific advantages and can fill different roles. Think of it as hiring the right platform for the right job. Bottom line: this is not a zero sum game and we don’t need to seek or declare a winner.

Could apps and web sites reach feature parity in a few years, and effectively end the debate? Sure, but until Apple can figure out how to make $5 billion per year on web apps — don’t hold your breath.