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Is Flipboard’s Monetization Strategy Working?

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 9th 2013

News aggregating service Flipboard recently announced that it had a user base of more than 56 million readers worldwide. Last August, that number stood at 20 million. Flipboard claims to add at least 200,000 users daily to its application to access more than 3.5 million magazines. Here is a quick discussion of how the site has been expanding its presence.

Flipboard’s Growing Footprint

Flipboard is expanding its mobile footprint. After remaining focused on iOS since its launch in 2010, Flipboard now has apps for other operating systems. Its iOS and Android apps are ranked the second favorite app in their respective stores. The app was recently upgraded to let users create their own magazines. The feature was earlier available only on the iOS. But now, users can either bookmark an article or tap a button on the article inside the app to collect posts, images, videos, and other content to share on Flipboard and other social networks. Besides individual articles, users can also share the entire magazines through SMS, email, or Pinterest.

To gain traction in the non-mobile segment, Flipboard also released a web-based editor that lets users manage magazines on PCs through desktop browsers including IE9+, Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Users can add and delete content, rearrange magazines, and check how often others have shared items in their magazines. The company is also developing a Windows 8–based app to tap that market segment.

Flipboard Adds Content

Apart from expanding its user base, Flipboard has also expanded its content library. Recently it tied up with Financial Times to let users access their content through the Flipboard app. Among international content providers, they have tie-ups with the BBC, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and Wired UK. They also opened their app to graphic interchange format (GIF) files that enable users to view silent animation on their apps as part of the articles.

In addition, Flipboard is growing its local language content. Last year it released a local language app for the Chinese market. They plan to continue to invest in local language curating-related activities in Asia Pacific, with a focus on China, Japan and India. Flipboard is now available in 11 languages, including English, Chinese, French, German, and Japanese.

Flipboard’s Monetization

Despite their growth, Flipboard has maintained silence on their financials. Their monetization strategy relies on advertising revenues.  It sells ads on behalf of publishers, and sometimes publishers sell these ads themselves. There aren’t any numbers available to prove their success, but Flipboard claims that monetization has been “very good”. 

It is also building additional revenue capabilities by initiating paywall gates for publishers like the Financial Times and the New York Times. Users can become a subscriber to these magazines directly from Flipboard and access their premium content. Flipboard also wants to enable retailers to be able to sell products through Flipboard without leaving the app to go to the retailer’s website or another online store. As part of sales of content, the company wants to enable premium curators to be able to sell their magazines through Flipboard.

Meanwhile, Flipboard remains venture funded, with investment of more than $111 million from investors that include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Index Ventures, Jack Dorsey, Dustin Moskovitz, Peter Currie, Quincy Smith, The Chernin Group, SV Angel, Ashton Kutcher, Ron Conway, Suhail Rizvi, Goldman Sachs, and Insight Venture Partners. Earlier last month, it raised $50 million in a funding round led by Rizvi, Goldman Sachs, and Insight Ventures at a valuation of $800 million. Two years ago, Flipboard raised $50 million at a valuation of $200 million.

Flipboard does seem to have a lot of ideas on how to improve the monetization of its products. But I will remain wary of its skyrocketing valuation until I see some concrete numbers and evidence that they are indeed monetizing.

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