Flipboard, now with 56M users, looks for ways to make money

CEO Mike McCue says the company has added 6 million users since launching version 2.0 of its iOS app and that an Android version will be released "very, very soon."

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference Monday in New York. Shara Tibken/CNET
Flipboard is posting pretty rapid growth, and it's looking for new ways to generate revenue for itself, partners, and users, the company's CEO said.

Mike McCue, speaking Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, said the company has added 6 million new users since launching an update to its popular news-reading app a month ago.

Flipboard in late March launched version 2.0 of its iOS app that allows readers to become magazine publishers. Instead of just reading content, users can now create personalized periodicals curated from a variety of Web content from around the world.

McCue said Flipboard will release version 2.0 for Android "very, very soon" but declined to specify a date. He said the company is "putting the finishing touches on it" and that it has been more difficult to create than the iOS version because it must work on a wider variety of devices.

"Android has been really striking in terms of how quickly it's growing," McCue said. "We don't break out iOS versus Android numbers, but [Android is] growing very, very fast and is a very important part of our strategy."

Meanwhile, a big concern for startups is what they're doing to actually generate revenue from their products. McCue noted that Flipboard's primary focus is helping publishers make money from their original content through advertising. Flipboard takes a cut of those those advertising dollars, and it also generates revenue through premium content.

Flipboard wants to allow publishers and companies to charge for content and sell products through Flipboard, McCue said. For example, a publication can charge users to access a particular article, or someone browsing a Levi's catalog could buy jeans directly through that Flipboard catalog instead of heading to Levi's Web page or a store.

In addition, Flipboard in the future will look at ways to help people creating their own magazines make money from their compilations. McCue noted that's particularly true as those "super pro curators" start creating original content.

Publishers, meanwhile, make significantly less on advertising on mobile devices than in print, and McCue attributed that to how the ads are packed, presented, and ultimately monetized.

McCue said what News Corp.'s iPad-only publication, The Daily, did wrong was charging for daily content. Instead, it should have made daily news free and charged for a weekly edition that featured longer articles and "thought" pieces. The Daily launched with big ambitions but recently was shuttered.

"I am a huge fan of what they tried to do and the sprit of what they tried to do," McCue said. "It's nice to have a daily wrapup at some level, but charging for that, paying for that is tough when a lot of that content is free on the Web. ... What we've learned as an industry is that you have to get the packaging right. People will pay for content,but you need to make some of the content free."

In the meantime, McCue wants Flipboard to serve as a place for publishers to experiment. And Flipboard then will benefit from their success.

"I think the publishing industry has reason to be incredibly optimistic about the future," McCue said. "The best days ahead of it. Disruption is happening, but there's progress out of disruption. ... We see signs experiments are starting to work."

 

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