On popular question and answer site Quora, well-known blogger (and Business Insider contributor) Robert Scoble offered his thoughts on why Mike McCue, the founder of Apple’s iPad App of the Year Flipboard, just joined Twitter’s board of directors.
To sum it up, it’s all about media, and therefore advertising. Scoble says McCue “is doing some of the most advanced thinking” out there about online publishing and the evolution of online advertising. He notes that McCue, who began his career at Netscape in the 90s, was involved early in the development of online publishing standard RSS.
(Another RSS pioneer is Dick Costolo, who founded Feedburner, an RSS analytics and advertising startup which was acquired by Google for $100 million and, of course, is now CEO of Twitter. And many people think that Twitter has made RSS obsolete.)
Twitter is many things of course, but one of these things is a huge real time publishing platform that media outlets and journalists have taken to like a duck to water. Focusing on its media assets might help Twitter establish itself firmly in the mainstream, which it is struggling to do, and attract more brand advertising, which it needs to build a huge business to justify its nearly $4 billion valuation. In a sense, Twitter and Flipboard are doing the same thing, albeit in very different ways: aggregating a bunch of online and social media and trying to invent a new advertising model around it.
Another likely reason for the McCue pick that Scoble doesn’t mention is the fact that he has been involved for over a decade with Twitter’s latest investor, Kleiner Perkins, which doesn’t have a seat on the board. Kleiner invested in McCue’s previous startup, Tellme, in 1999. McCue has been vocal in his praise of Kleiner, and Kleiner Partner Ellen Pao, who sits on Flipboard’s board, was previously an executive at Tellme. So it’s likely that although Kleiner would always have been involved with Twitter, board seat or no, McCue will also probably be an unofficial proxy for them.
In any case, it looks like co-founder Biz Stone’s musing that Twitter might build a news service wasn’t too far off. While Twitter is doing many other different things, like helping people find jobs and making a tangible difference in many people’s lives, this appointment shows that Twitter is now firmly headed in the direction of building a media and publishing business.
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