The beautifully polished, infinitely browsable iPad/iPhone “social magazine” Flipboard is one of the best ways I know to find interesting stuff to read. Starting now, it’s going beyond words by adding a whole new kind of content: audio.
What Flipboard isn’t doing is diving head-first into the surging sea of sound that’s available on the web. Instead, it’s starting by partnering with just three purveyors of audio. You can play music and other tracks from Soundcloud, including items from people you follow on that service. And you can listen to shows in podcast form from two public-radio providers, NPR and PRI.
You could start something playing in Flipboard and devote all your attention to listening to it. More intriguing, you can also continue to peruse the never-ending selection of articles, blog posts, photos and other content while the audio continues to play in the background. Tap on a musical-note icon in the lower left-hand corner of the screen, and a pop-up audio player lets you pause, jump around and move to the next track, as well as performing standard Flipboard actions such as social-network sharing.
Flipboard gave me a sneak peek at the new feature earlier this week and early access to the update. As you’d expect, the company’s done a fabulous job with the user interface — once I started listening, it was easy to forget that audio wasn’t always a fundamental feature of this app. But as slick as the player is right now, I’m even more excited about its potential if Flipboard opens up the feature to audio from all over, rather than from just the three partners who are in place. And it does say it’ll add more sources in the future.
The new features are part of Flipboard 1.9, an update that should be available around the time you read this. It also adds support for saving items for later reading via Pocket (formerly Read It Later) and Readability, the ability to add multiple new sections to your Flipboard at one time and other tweaks. No word yet on whether they’ll come to the Android version of Flipboard which became available in an unofficial leaked beta last week.