Yesterday Frédéric Filloux said, "Every media company should be afraid of Flipboard." But Flipboard has promised to work with publishers, and in fact, already is. In December, eight publishers worked with the company to better format their articles. If it's working with media companies, why would Filloux make such a strong statement?
He explained, "Flipboard is THE product any big media company or, better, any group of media companies should have invented."
Flipboard is an iPad application that uses social networking accounts like Facebook and Twitter to build a magazine-like experience. The application takes links that have been posted by your friends and contacts, and presents them in a much more visually appealing article format. Users can click on articles, sending them to the source site in order to read the full story, something competing app, Zite, doesn't too, which led to trouble earlier this month. Flipboard's algorithm notes which topics and friends you pay the most interest to, pushing them to the top. It also displays photos.
Everyday, Flipboard makes it harder for media companies to compete. While many media companies are less willing to share each other's content, Flipboard has no such concerns. It displays contents from all kinds of different and competing publishers, making it a better representation of how the public currently consumes media. As an article on Techi.com pointed out, "Rather than reading from one or two sources, online we read from many."
It recently received $50 million from investors, and CEO Mike McCue detailed to Tech Crunch's Erick Schonfeld how he plans to use the money to expand. After hiring several more staff members to help with expansion, the company plans to sign on more publishers. Currently, it has 17, but McCue said it was aiming for 100 to 150 publishing partners.
Flipboard's push for expansion was spurred in part by rumors that Google is concocting a "Flipboard killer." McCue confessed, "[T]his desire to kill us--a bunch of folks there have decided to build this product, I have no idea what it is--raises a little concern about the unknown. Anytime a company like that [might go after you], it certainly is the kind of thing I give a lot of thought to."
Both Schonfeld and Filloux dismissed Google's threat. Schonfeld had a source saying the "Flipboard killer" project might get the axe. Filloux seemed to think Google's lack of graphics and the way it does banner ads- which aren't very attractive to costumers- would keep it from being a real competitor.
Can an app that is free on iTunes and has no current ad service become profitable? While skeptics have said no, Filloux disagreed. Its access to social media accounts gives Flipboard inside information on individual reader that will make it the perfect platform for targeted advertisement for users.
With all of its success, media companies will be hard-pressed to come up with a model that will be able to beat Flipboard financially, but they could still benefit from the application itself. Filloux offers one piece of advice to this end. "If, as [McCue] says, he is really willing to work with publishers, then they should meet. Sooner rather than later."