Flipboard Buys Ellerdale, Launches Social Digital Magazine

29 Comments

Remember how the iPad was supposed to herald a new era of media consumption? Well, that day is finally here — or at least an early glimpse of it, with the new iPad application Flipboard, built by a new company of the same name.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Flipboard, backed with $10.5 million from Kleiner Perkins and Index Ventures, has built a beautiful application that reformats web articles, photos and status messages into a magazine-style layout. You can use it as an alternate way to consume your Twitter followers’ shared links, your Facebook friends’ posts and pictures, or other choice feeds of web content.

The first version of Flipboard just hit the Apple app store tonight, but the next version will be even more interesting, as it will be powered by the relevance engine built by Ellerdale. In recent weeks, Flipboard acquired Ellerdale, which had developed a set of real-time search and discovery tools based on Twitter. Ellerdale co-founder and CTO Arthur van Hoff has joined Flipboard as CTO.

Flipboard is an application for content consumption, not creation. This is not your new full-functioned iPad Twitter client; it’s a way to read the articles your friends think are most interesting in a format that emphasizes photos, typography, and the appeal of well-placed white space.

Flipboard was founded by Mike McCue, former CEO of Tellme (s MSFT) and Evan Doll, a former senior iPhone engineer at Apple (s AAPL). Besides Kleiner and Index, it is also backed by Jack Dorsey, Dustin Moskovitz, Peter Chernin, Ron Conway, Alfred Lin, Peter Currie, Quincy Smith and Ashton Kutcher. Ellerdale was in the process of raising its first institutional funding at the time of the acquisition.

Van Hoff said that two-year-old Ellerdale had initially wanted to create a personalized social web product, but had been warned off the challenge by investors, so it set off to build the technology first and eventually find a use for it. Only now that does original idea makes sense, he said, given the form factor of the iPad. “We’ve been building a great analytics engine, but we never had the delivery mechanism for the content sorted out. Our site was the demo, not a product, and here [with Flipboard] we have a great product.”

McCue said that while the initial Flipboard is a free application, in the future the company plans to explore advertising and subscription models as well as revenue sharing with publishers. The company also plans to soon add additional sources of content such as Tumblr, LinkedIn and Yelp.

For more on the cool stuff Ellerdale was doing, and van Hoff’s perspective on real-time as a long-time influential technologist, see our recent video interview with him.

For more on Flipboard, which is the kind of app you could really imagine sitting back, relaxing, and poring through, see this demo video they made:

And here are some screenshots:

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The iPad: Cable TV for Publishers?

29 Comments

Lisa

I don’t even use any of those networking sites, but the app design and navigation is very well done.

rohit

any app that pays attention to typography will get a (paid) download on my iDevices. go flipboard.

monal

wow this app got popular really quick….the facebook, twitter integration got overwhelmed quick and they have already had to do an infrastructure upgrade just get those 2 social networks to work!

Nick

So, basically this company takes news sources and puts them in a more aesthetic fashion? Am I missing something else that it does?

Karl

uh yeah, you’re missing there incredible PR spin! get on the bandwagon.
it’s pretty and interesting, but not that sophisticated. maybe ellerdale will help them step up their game.

Jason Schmidt

“a more aesthetic fashion” really trivializes the value that design plays in making information consumable by people. The goal of any news paper, web site or iPad app delivering news is to show people what matters by engaging them in an interface ranks information with visual cues. As an extreme example, imagine trying to consume a dictionary where every word was randomly scattered. It would be impossible. Conceptually, an app like Flipboard designs information for people by personalizing what matters to them based on their shared Facebook and Twitter information, and presents it as visual roadmap that guides people on where to look first, next and last. Whether Flipboard will be good at doing that remains to be seen. As of this morning, they have blocked FB connect and Twitter logins in their sign up process.

Ash Bhoopathy

You’re absolutely right, but it’s tough to convince people that think that design is merely aesthetic.

Nick

I can understand it from your point of view, and it makes sense, but it’s not how I consume news sources. About 90% of my news is done via RSS feeds from various news sources, and the remaining 10% is from FB/Twitter. Something like this doesn’t hold appeal to me because I can’t see how this can help me consume more news or make it more efficient.

Plus, there’s also the Scoble factor – if he’s hyping it, I’m pretty sure it’ll flop.

Doug

I am with you Nick. I have not downloaded and played with it yet, but it might be cool for social media feeds, but it seems to me if it is pulling content from blogs and news sites it could be violating their copyright or at the very least making it hard for them to monetize their content. And what is the deal with Ashton Kutcher? Really?

Liz Gannes

They only display a couple sentences or paragraphs of articles, then cache the full version in the background from the site it’s hosted on for you to click through and read. It’ll be a better experience if they can get distribution deals with publishers to display their full text.

Doug

@Liz

I hear what you are saying, but no less than the ethically challenged Gizmodo is expressing the same concerns I have about this app.

http://gizmodo.com/5594176/is-flipboard-legal

What I would like to see is the flipboard folks license their software so sites could create flipboard versions of their web sites. They could be like wordpress, but for the iPad.

Christian Louboutin

Flipboard’s acquisition of Ellerdale is particularly notable as another significant validation of the practical implementations of the Semantic Web vision, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s 1999 “dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers.”

R_macdonald

Flipboard is a wonderful app, can’t wait until it starts folding in Ellerdale’s semantic algorithms.

Flipboard’s acquisition of Ellerdale is particularly notable as another significant validation of the practical implementations of the Semantic Web vision, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s 1999 “dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers.”

Flipboard+ Ellerdale, Google+Metaweb, Apple+Siri, HuffPost+Adaptive Semantics, Evri+Twine, Facebook+RDFa, & Twitter Annotations RDFa potential

As @bernardlunn observed last week, the Semantic Web is crossing the chasm to the mainstream. http://bit.ly/cQf6kH

Jen

Must the spokesperson in the ad be so incredibly visually unappealing/unattractive?

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