* Company plans to add whole TV episodes, films
* Could become profitable as early as next year
By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 25 Internet video is getting
even more crowded. Flipboard, the social media magazine whose
investors include actor Ashton Kutcher, plans to add television
shows and films to move it beyond the online articles that it
The Palo Alto, California-based company hopes to cut deals
with studios to carry movies and episodes of TV shows, getting
into territory staked out by Netflix (NFLX.O), Hulu and
Flipboard mixes articles from a growing list of brands like
Oprah.com and the Economist with social media feeds from sites
like Facebook into a personalized online magazine. It has
received $60.5 million in venture capital funding and its app
has been downloaded 3 million times.
Chairman and Chief Executive Mike McCue said he will tackle
the video project at the end of the year. He declined to say
which studio partners he has approached. He also hopes
eventually to cut deals with publishers to sell electronic
books through Flipboard.
Flipboard is available only on the Apple (AAPL.O) iPad, but
McCue expects to launch an iPhone version in a few weeks that
will also work on the iPod Touch.
The service takes a cut of the revenue for ads sold for
Flipboard, though the company would not say what percentage. It
could make an operating profit next year, McCue said, but
likely will not because it plans to reinvest that money.
"We're trying to create the largest company possible," said
Danny Rimer, general partner at Index Ventures, which helped
fund Flipboard. He believes display advertising revenue's
migration online is "a very big opportunity."
Other investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
McCue, a board member at microblogging service Twitter, has
spent his career in technology. He founded Paper Software,
which improved digital content display, in 1989 and sold it to
Netscape for $20 million in 1996. In 2007, eight years after
founding it, he sold his voice-based information business
Tellme Networks to Microsoft (MSFT.O) for about $800 million.
SOCIAL MEDIA, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
With Flipboard, McCue hopes to feed people's increasing
appetite for articles found through social media, like when a
friend recommends a story on Facebook. About 5 percent of
traffic to news sites such as cnn.com comes from social media,
estimates Boston-based research firm Compete Inc.
While almost any free online article can be read on
Flipboard, the articles look better if publishers have worked
with the company.
Those articles do not scroll, but come in pages that people
can turn by clicking on an icon. This provides a sense of
rhythm and holds a reader's attention better, McCue said.
Flipboard readers tend to spend 45 minutes to an hour a day on
the service, most of it looking at articles, he added.
Flipboard also lets the publishers run full-page ads as
they would in their print editions. Working with advertisers
like American Express (AXP.N), Conde Nast has started
experimenting with full-page ads on its Flipboard edition of
the New Yorker. Bon Appetit's and Wired's Flipboard versions
will feature such ads later this year.
Flipboard and rivals, including Zite, news360.com, and AOL
Editions, have occasionally been hailed as important helpers
for magazine publishers trying to compensate for their falling
circulation and ad revenue.
Flipboard won't disclose how many of the 3 million people
who have downloaded its app use it on a regular basis.
Publishers say people who view their content through Flipboard
represent a fraction of their online readership.
Conde Nast says each of its four publications on Flipboard
averages about 100,000 readers, compared to millions for the
regular online sites for those same publications.
Moreover, apps as a source of advertising revenue remain
far from lucrative. In magazines, for example, it is such a
small portion of the $2.4 billion that eMarketer estimates
magazines will earn in online advertising revenue this year
that the research firm does not measure it separately.
That could change as more consumers buy tablets, the medium
where most people use apps like Flipboard. Tablet sales should
almost triple to 43.6 million units this year, according to
eMarketer, then almost double to 81.3 million units next year.
(Editing by Edwin Chan and Robert MacMillan)
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