Flipboard just revealed a new product that could well save the company: a social catalogue for shopping.
More broadly, it shows that the much-watched startup is shifting away from getting people to look at ads to getting people to pay for things—content subscriptions, as with its deal with the New York Times, or actual commerce, as with its newly revealed catalogue.
The catalogue works similarly to Flipboard’s a mobile app which takes links shared by friends on Facebook and Twitter and presents them in a visually appealing, magazine-like format. The catalogue product looks for links to things you can buy that were shared by friends or brands you follow, and builds custom shopping pages where you can buy things within Flipboard.
That makes Flipboard far more similar to other social-commerce startups. These include Pinterest, which was recently valued at $1.5 billion; The Fancy, which we hear was courted for an acquisition by Apple; and Svpply, which eBay just bought for an undisclosed amount.
It also takes Flipboard out of the line of fire of Twitter, which has been cracking down on Twitter app developers who duplicate its primary function—presenting and consuming the content Twitter users share.
Flipboard is a much-watched startup for two main reasons. First, its investors include Index Ventures (backers of Skype) and Kleiner Perkins, the venture-capital firm behind Google and Amazon. Second, its CEO, Mike McCue, is a much-respected and personable serial entrepreneur.
At one point, McCue was so tight with Twitter that he got invited to serve on the company’s board.
But he recently left the board and said Twitter had to watch out for being “greedy” in its relations with developers.
Now he just has to hope that Twitter doesn’t decide that e-commerce is an area it wants to dominate, too.
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