Flipboard Redefines Digital Publishing, Raises US$50 Million
A Flipboard magazine on Climbing & Mountaineering

When the history of digital publishing is written, the social magazine Flipboard could get a whole chapter for its successes in mobile publishing, socially-based reading selections and stellar display of aggregated content. This week, the company fueled up for more forward motion, raising US$ 50 million in investment funding. 

The funding round, led by Goldman Sachs and Rizvi Taverse Management, was based on a US$ 800 million valuation. Two years ago, the company’s valuation was $200 million. Rizvi is managed by Sukhail Rizni, an investor with stakes in Twitter, Facebook and Square; other investors include Kleiner Perkins and Index Ventures.

Flipboard's Windows 8 App

The new funding will be directed toward completion of a Windows 8 app, continuation of an international expansion, adding some new features and bringing aboard some more salespeople.

In March, Flipboard released version 2.0, whose new features include the ability to create one’s own magazine from stories found on the Web or on Flipboard. As with regular Flipboard, one’s own magazine can be readily shared, meaning that anyone can become a small-p publisher with relatively little effort, magnified by the size of your friends and colleagues network.

The company says that, following this added functionality, there are now an astounding 3.5 million customized magazines on the platform, and the publication is adding about a quarter million new users daily. Brands are also busily making their own customized magazines to promote their wares, including a Random House magazine for a new Margaret Atwood novel and a future-oriented one by Cisco.

Whither Digital Magazines?

The company is looking to grow user interaction with ads, not only through multimedia but by connections to brand-based custom magazines, offering the potential of deeper involvement in a brand’s content than on, say, Facebook’s fan pages.

This points to Flipboard’s key innovations -- a magazine for you defined by your interests and those of your social network, and a platform for easy, dynamic creation of a magazine around preferred content -- using the media, display and ease-of-use capabilities of modern computing devices, especially mobile ones.

All of which highlights a growing dichotomy between digital magazines. On the one hand, you have Flipboard as well as Google’s Currents and other kinds of aggregated reading applications, which could be described as personalizable, aggregated reading services, and, on the other, you have digital versions of existing magazines, such as the ones that recently adopted standards for measuring readers, which offer some social interaction but are largely composed of content provided by a single publisher.

In digital music, movies, TV and books, content from a single source, such as a network, has largely evolved into pick-and-choose content. The same evolutionary push toward assembling individual pieces of content appears to be happening in magazines, with the only question being if the single-source, traditional magazine can compete digitally over the long term.