For Bloglovin, a blog aggregator that combines the functionality of an RSS feed with the aesthetic appeal of Tumblr, mastering mobile has been all about baby steps.
In March, the New York-based Betaworks-backed startup, which raised $1 million in seed funding this summer, released its first mobile app on iOS. But even co-founder and CEO Mattias Swenson acknowledges that it was “pretty bad.”
“It was more of a mobile shell,” he said. Swenson and his co-founders launched it to give users of the website – which initially targeted fashion enthusiasts – some way to follow their favorite bloggers on the go. But it only surfaced a limited amount of content and didn’t support any social interaction.
Over the past few months, however, in response to feedback from users (via comments and surveys), the startup has released a series of ongoing updates and, earlier this month, pushed its most complete version yet. In the past ten days, Swenson said, the app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and averages a five-star rating in Apple’s App Store. The startup said it has more than 1.8 million members who follow more than 4 million blogs on the site.
The new app lets users view mobile-optimized versions of the most recent blog posts in their feed, and it lets them access mobile versions of other content from those blogs. It also plays up discovery by displaying the most popular posts in every category (from food to fashion to interior design) and lets users “like” content from the app.
Paul Murphy, Betaworks’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence and former Aviary COO, said Bloglovin’s approach to developing for mobile was unusual relative to other Betaworks startups. Most companies have a clear product roadmap and release their app once it’s mostly baked (or after a few beta tests), but he said Bloglovin continually and quickly iterated in response to user feedback.
Taking the latter approach can be a bit risky because users might not return to an app if they had a poor first experience. But Bloglovin’s success seems to speak to the strength of its community and the depth of their engagement – which is one of the reasons Betaworks has said it was interested in Bloglovin from the beginning.
Swenson said their app ambitions are still just 10 percent of what they want them to be – they plan to build out the iOS app, as well as expand to Android and launch an iPad app, in the coming year. Since taking their investment this summer, he also said that they’ve added two engineers in Sweden (which is where he and his co-founders first launched the company) and a marketing head in New York.