Polar Mobile Raises $6 Million For Magazine Apps, Cross-Platform Services

Polar Mobile — the Canadian startup that develops apps for big-name publishers like CBS Interactive (NYSE: CBS), Conde Nast, Sports Illustrated (NYSE: TWX), Shanghai Daily, Future Publishing (LSE: FUTR) and the WSJ — today announced two steps up in its growth: it has picked up an additional $6 million in funding and has launched a new cross-platform product, capitalizing on the interest in developing not only for web and native platforms, but also the growing scrutiny of how much it costs to execute on that strategy.

Polar also today released some numbers that attests to the growth of the apps economy — and to its own business. It says that it currently works with some 380 media brands in 12 countries. It has served 1.6 billion page views for some 11 million users to-date across the many apps that it has produced.

The $6 million round was led by Georgian Partners and takes the total invested in the company to $9 million, with the previous $3 million coming from private investors.

Georgian, which based in Toronto like Polar, has a portfolio that includes another app developer, Kony Solutions, as well as a number of other platform-based B2B digital media startups. (Two others include Shopify and Terapeak, which are used by retail e-commerce companies.)

Meanwhile, the new product line, branded MediaEverywhere, effectively does what it says on the label: it is HTML-5 based and is aimed at letting publishers make apps that can get used on different platforms and devices — not just mobiles and tablets but also desktop computers, and not just native apps but web browsers, too.

Working across different platforms is a trend we’ve seem among other app developers — but given the client line-up that Polar already has, this is a significant sign of how that kind of strategic view is taking shape among publishers investing in apps. Research from GfK last year showed that some 11 percent of magazine views are now digital-only — a number that is on the rise, with publishers all making sure that they will be along for the ride.

It’s worth pointing out that Polar already offered a degree of cross-platform development before today: its SmartTM product lets content be formatted for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, PlayBook, Windows Phone and Nokia’s Symbian platform; however now web apps are being added into the mix.

Kunal Gupta, the CEO of Polar, tells paidContent that is has some publishers already on the platform but is not announcing any client names just yet.

Some publishers — notably the FT — are buying up/bringing in-house their third-party developers in order to have a better grip on how they develop their apps, and to make sure that they continue to have an edge on their competitors. That presents an interesting challenge for a third-party company like Polar: will it, too, eventually get swallowed up by one of its customers, or will it find it hard in the longer term to attract business from the big-name publishers who will continue to invest in having that expertise in-house?

Gupta tells paidContent that the company is more than happy to stay independent for now.