Predictably, the tech world is abuzz with talk of Flipboard today.
The new free iPad app is pitching itself, perhaps hyperbolically, as “the world’s first social magazine” – essentially, it gathers together content from readers’ social networking buddies and re-presents it in what it says is a magazine style.
It’s come from nowhere, but — founded by Tellme ex-CEO Mike McCue and ex Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPhone engineer Evan Doll — Palo Alto-based Flipboard has already attracted $10.5 million in first-round venture money from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Index Ventures, together with Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Peter Chernin, Ron Conway, Alfred Lin, Peter Currie, Quincy Smith and Ashton Kutcher.
Plus it’s acquired Ellerdale, a software company whose algorithms make sense of hotly-linked content on social networks, to gather and serve relevant material in to the “magazine”. Ellerdale’s engineering team join Flipboard, with Java pioneer Arthur van Hoff becoming CTO.
What does Flipboard amount to? It’s certainly a political statement that the content folks publish themselves, and that which they recommend by discretion, is just as worthy as that which professional editors compile between covers. It’s really about taking the content our friends post and link to, and putting that front-and-center in an aggregator application designed for the iPad’s big touch screen.
Business model? “Early stages,” CEO McCue tells Scoble, but: “There are a lot of opportunities for us to do advertising that is richer, more beautiful and more immersive.”
— For all the print comparisons, this is not a “magazine”. A magazine is published at set intervals and can be finished. Flipboard changes each time it’s opened to reflect what our friends are posting – it’s the product of a live friend stream, aggregated in to something with a “cover”. What’s more, the content people publish to their social networks is rarely as considered or thoughtful as a magazine, and usually more ephemeral and person.
— The idea depends on providing a more lean-back, iPaddy consumption method than the web (else people may just use websites). Though the app pulls in to Flipboard extracts of some of the content friends have linked to, some full stories must be read by linking out to publisher websites. That seems to disrupt the experience…
— But it could also mean legal difficulties. CEO McCue tells Scoble: “We’re extracting the image, the title, the article, the author and other meta-data, comments etc.” Right now, extraction isn’t perfect.
— It’s reminiscent of Pulse -the RSS reader that brings a slightly different, more visual user interface.