Startup Case Study: Flipboard

By Lori Schull

While it’s not exactly new anymore, I still love Flipboard, the create-your-own news-magazine app released for iPad in 2010. It was founded by a former iPhone engineer and the former CEO of Tellme, a phone-based application that Microsoft purchased for $800 million in 2007.

Flipboard does not create any content itself. Instead, it creates a personalized magazine for its users and allows them to create and share their own magazines. It was designed to recreate the usability of a print magazine on a mobile device and allow users to easily share and connect with each other through other social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Since they are not creating their own content, they have been able to focus on the usability of the app, and it shows in its beautiful design and intuitive interface. It has also made some great video tutorials, as well as blogs about its internal functioning and recruiting on its website.

This app is all about personalization and allowing people to tell the app what kinds of content they want to see. It’s the news junkie’s version of Twitter because it allows for easy access to the news you think is important, without all the white noise. My favorite thing about Flipboard is they are not setting out to solve the media’s problem by creating more content; instead, they are finding the content and putting it together in a novel way. The world does not lack for great journalism; what it lacks is a great way to aggregate that content and make it easy to find without being a slave to Google or the whims of your Facebook newsfeed. The articles on this app are usually already vetted; they are not coming from a maniac’s blog or fringe media.

The design is truly incredible. The founders started making a way to recreate beautiful magazines like “National Geographic” online without losing the art of the design. It seems to have grown from there.

The need they ended up meeting was the aggregation factor. It’s all the news you want in one place, but it also interfaces with social media to facilitate sharing and communication. It has a search function and a way for users to create their own magazine, like a Pinterest for articles.

A lot of their money seems to come from private investors. To date, they have raised more than $60 million from private investors. Recently it did start allowing video advertising.

Most of their marketing strategy seems to be aimed at the technology media. Flipboard was named Apple’s 2010 iPad app of the year, and it has been featured on a wide variety of media outlets, including the BBC, Mashable, USA Today and The Verge.

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