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Flipboard is a news-reading application for the iPad and iPhone that presents stories and links from around the web in a visually appealing, magazine-like fashion.
It has proven to be very popular, often listed among the most downloaded free apps in Apple’s App Store. In May 2011, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue said the app’s users were generating more than 8 million “flips” — something approximating pageviews — per day, and as of April 2013, Flipboard reported 6 billion monthly “flips” and 53 million total users. Its iPhone app grew even faster, generating 1 million downloads in its first week in December 2011. The company was valued at $800 million in 2013.
Apple named Flipboard its iPad App of the Year for 2010. The app has been positioned as a more user-friendly iteration of aggregation tools like RSS readers and Twitter apps.
Flipboard plans to generate revenue by selling advertising, aiming at ad rates similar to those of print, which would be far ahead of most online advertising rates. It launched its first advertising program in July 2011 through a partnership with Conde Nast. Its advertising program has drawn criticism from some of its partner publications, leading Conde Nast’s Wired and The New Yorker to pull out of it in June 2012. It announced plans to add video ads in fall 2014.
In December 2010, Flipboard announced Flipboard Pages, a new format for presenting articles through custom-designed layouts. Flipboard Pages debuted with a number of partners in the traditional publishing industries, including The Washington Post Magazine, SB Nation, Lonely Planet, and the San Francisco Chronicle. About 50 publishers, including The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, had joined the program through October 2011. The New York Times announced in 2012 it would expand its paywall to include access via Flipboard. Flipboard also began partnering with Google in 2012 to include Google+ and YouTube streams. In November 2012, it added a books section through Apple’s iBookstore.
Flipboard launched a new version that allows users to edit and share their own magazines from Flipboard content.
Flipboard expanded to include audio content in May 2012, using material from NPR, PRI, and SoundCloud; it has also launched video channels with curated content from YouTube. It also has versions in China, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands, and Spain.
While Flipboard was perhaps the most popular among iPad apps in its category, a number of new competitors launched in early 2011 to try to improve the aggregated, social news-reading experience. Zite was a Canadian startup that promotes its ability to learn from users’ actions; Flipboard bought it from CNN in 2014 with plans to fold Zite’s technology into Flipboard’s product. News.me is a Twitter-driven aggregator originated in The New York Times‘ R&D Lab, then moved to the link-shortening service Bit.ly. Trove is a Graham Holdings Co. product that focuses on creating customized “channels” of news about particular topics.
Flipboard has received criticism for sending insufficient traffic to the sites it aggregates. In 2013, Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall announced his site had withdrawn from Flipboard and similar aggregation services, saying they were bad for publishers. Flipboard’s McCue responded that Flipboard delivers substantial ad revenue to its large publishers and plans to new sales channels to bring that revenue to smaller publishers as well.
Demand Media, founded in 2006, is an online media company that quickly grew to prominence by algorithmically assigning and publishing stories based on user-demand signals, such as search and social media trends. It typically pays authors a low sum of money for these posts, often about $15 per contribution, and assigns posts only when it believes…