Flipboard is about to get some competition on its home turf from Japan-based SmartNews

Photo by Maksym Yemelynov/Thinkstock

SmartNews, a mobile news-reading app that is powered by an algorithm and mines Twitter for trending topics, has closed a new $36-million round of funding and is planning to compete with Flipboard head on by expanding into North America this fall, according to multiple reports. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, has consistently been in the top five apps since it launched in December of 2012, and has signed up more than 100 Japanese publishers.

The app had an estimated 2.2 million active monthly users in February, according to Tech News in Asia, which quoted the company as saying that about 75 percent of users who had downloaded the app were active users, and about 38 percent were using it daily. By the end of May, the app had been downloaded 4 million times.

The company has said that it intends to use the latest round of funding — which was provided by the Atomico investment fund (run by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom) and a Japanese social-gaming company called Gree — to expand into North America. According to a report by Re/Code, former Wall Street Journal editor and former Bloomberg tech columnist Rich Jaroslovsky is heading up the U.S. expansion, and an American version of the app is expected to launch this fall.

SmartNews uses algorithms to detect trending stories both from its publishing partners and from social media, and then categorizes them into different tabs, and also mines Twitter for discussion of those topics and includes that as part of the package, something Flipboard and other competitors don’t do.

Flipboard is likely to be a fairly aggressive competitor for SmartNews: the company says it has more than 100 million active users, and it closed a financing round worth $50 million in December that brought the total amount raised to $161 million and valued the company at close to $1 billion. Flipboard also has relationships with more than 8,000 publishers and content providers — although not all publishers see the company as a friend.

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Thinkstock / Maxsym Yemelynov

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