Business

After tackling tablet magazine publishing, Flipboard launches catalogs

Above: Banana Republic catalog cover within Flipboard.

Image Credit: Flipboard

Flipboard recently gave readers the ability to curate their own magazines. Now the company is embracing e-commerce by enabling people to create catalogs.

It’s a small step, actually: A catalog is basically a magazine that’s filled with the products of a single merchant rather than ads for different brands. But the design aesthetics are similar — and well-suited to the medium of Flipboard, which presents news articles, photos, and — now — catalog entries as appealing, uncluttered, full-screen “pages” on your tablet or smartphone.

“Anyone can curate a catalog or add products to a magazine,” Flipboard spokesperson Christel van der Boom told VentureBeat. “Shopping on Flipboard and the ability to curate products have been highly requested by our users. With these new additions, we want to create an even more vibrant ecosystem for content and make Flipboard a place for everything you love.”

Flipboard launches today with a set of 11 catalogs curated by the Flipboard staff and by various brands, including Banana Republic, ModCloth, Fab, eBay, and Birchbox. In addition, the company says, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, singer Sara Evans, chef Daniel Boulud, and actress Alyssa Milano have contributed “catalogs” full of their own favorite products.

“User studies show that people want to shop on Flipboard, and since the introduction of magazine curation, one of the most received requests is to add products to a magazine,” Flipboard chief executive Mike McCue said in a statement.

With the curated catalogs, Flipboard also has a new way to make money: Encouraging the brands to advertise — on Flipboard, of course — to drive readers over to their catalogs.

“When brands curate a catalog, they’ll want to promote them with full page ads in publisher sections to drive readers to it (and we get a cut),” van der Boom said. “For instance, Banana Republic’s ads are running in [Flipboard] publications like Elle and Vanity Fair; when you tap on them, you get taken to one of their catalogs.”

Ordinary folks like you and me can make Flipboard catalogs, too, using a new “Flip.it” browser button that lets you add web pages to your catalogs and magazines with a single click. Similar buttons already exist for other services, like Stumbleupon, Pinterest, and Pocket, so it should be a quick way to streamline the process of building up a curated collection of products.

Flipboard has seen a lot of success with its approach to aggregating and delivering content, though not every publisher is happy about being re-bundled within Flipboard’s app: Talking Points Memo recently blocked Flipboard from aggregating its news. But readers love the app, because it is a welcome alternative to the cluttered, ad-heavy layouts of most websites. (We’re guilty of this at VentureBeat too, I know. We’re working on it. And in the meantime, you can read VentureBeat on Flipboard, of course.) It’s so much easier to “flip” from story to story, reading what catches your eye as you go, rather than scrolling through web pages and scanning headlines.

The new catalog approach is a natural succession to Flipboard’s curated magazines. It puts the company in more direct competition with commerce- and fashion-oriented aggregators like Pinterest and Polyvore.

It also opens up new possiblities for monetization. In future versions, for instance, Flipboard might collect referral fees or affiliate fees for customers that its catalog delivers — and it might split that revenue with its most successful curators. For now, however, Flipboard’s catalog service is free, and there’s no affiliate marketing involved.


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