June 16, 2015 Last Updated 6:34 am

Flipboard updates iOS app, allowing readers to add their own content to magazines

While Flipboard has proved a success at generating users, it is still be seen if it can build large levels of revenue for itself, or for their content partners

It has been the position of TNM that publishers should be leery of media aggregating apps such as Flipboard. Not simply because they are aggregators, or that they don’t have an audience (they do), but for more complex reasons.

My objections to apps such as Flipboard and Zite has always been that I did not see a barrier to entry. That is, any developer could launch an aggregation app to complete in this space, and while developers (and Apple) seem to think that design is the differentiator, I believe it is marketing power. That is why it was interesting when Google and AOL entered the space, there was no reason why not to experiment as the cost to do so was so low. But neither Currents nor Editions caught on. Why?


The Zite iPad app, still live depite Flipboard acquisition

The reason is likely that neither company saw it worth their time (or resources) to crush Flipboard. The potential audience inside an aggregation app, while big for Flipboard, still feels small for big tech companies. Flipboard boasts more than 100 million active readers, and continues to say it is adding more users each day – was this because it had a first-mover advantage, with the kind of funding necessary, for instance, to buy out Zite?

So why didn’t Apple buy Flipboard? They may have thought about it. Apple is getting to be like a giant ship, it turns slowly but once set in a certain direction is pretty powerful, if not nimble. They may have seen what Google and AOL were doing a few years ago and set their sights on either buying Flipboard or creating their own. If they chose not to buy Flipboard it would have been because of the funding dilemma: its valuation, due to its latest round of funding, was said to be around $800 million, yet its revenue is said to be around $50 million. Looks like a bad deal to me, so maybe Apple said ‘we know how to make money at this’ and decided to build their own solution.

This may be why they never cleaned up the Newsstand, they already had another solution in mind, and unable to walk and chew gum at the same, concentrated solely on Apple News while the Newsstand remained unmaintained. (I still find it hard to believe that the App Store team is so incompetent, but they prove me wrong each day the Newsstand looks the way it does.)

Apple News has tremendous potential… if Google and Apple teamed up on it. One could provide the vision and design, the other the advertising sales power. Apple on its own, however, may prove incapable of making Apple News work financially for publishers. But few ever want to bet against Apple, it appears, so it will be interesting to see what develops.

Meanwhile, Flipboard has three months to do whatever it wants while we wait for the appearance of Apple News to launch with the release of iOS 9 in September.

Flip-iPadToday it updated its iOS app, called Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine, and added the ability of users to add their own text and images to the magazines they create. This is a smart features – from the reader’s perspective – though media brands will see this as taking readers ever further away from experiencing their publications the way they were originally designed.

This is, of course, the problem with aggregation apps: they expose readers to brands, but brands can not build on that as they do not control what content surrounds their own. Further, there is a huge question about whether a publisher can build their brands through aggregation apps.

One could argue that web-only brands have been built through aggregators, if you want to call Google search and Google News aggregation apps. But I think the comparison doesn’t really work. Could BuzzFeed have built itself through an aggregation app? Many have tested this through Flipboard but I have heard few success story. The success story is Flipboard itself, not the brands it has helped build.

It is interesting that this story in Entrepreneur talks a bunch about the success of Flipboard, but nothing about how Flipboard has made its contributors successful.

Here is the app description for today’s update:

What’s New in Version 3.3

  • Express yourself by posting original text and images to your magazines
  • Use the new compose icon to highlight text for your magazines
  • Block unwanted followers or make your profile private

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