Flipboard, the magazine-like news aggregator that launched in late 2010, has been courting potential buyers since early 2015. The startup signaled that it might be interested in selling, and social media service Twitter was quick to the punch in starting the talks. Since then, reports have hinted that Google and Yahoo are also holding discussions with Flipboard. So, the question is, who is going to end up owning Flipboard, and why?
It isn’t really a big surprise that Twitter has been in talks to purchase Flipboard. First of all, Twitter has been stuck in neutral for a while now with slow growth, and the company’s investors are unhappy. Because of that, Twitter is trying to find a way to capture a larger audience by enhancing its own site and offering better services. Twitter is already a go-to place for breaking news items, but scanning your Twitter timeline to find the news can be cumbersome. That’s where Flipboard could come in, providing its magazine-like approach to displaying the latest headlines.
Google and Yahoo also have excellent cause to snap up Flipboard, if they can. Both companies have tried offering their own news apps to mobile devices, but those offerings have floundered while Flipboard has continued to add users. To add insult to injury, Facebook has recently made a new deal with content creators to add “Instant Articles” to the social media company’s news feeds. Either company could gain valuable traction with media outlets if they had Flipboard’s well-established platform to dish out news headlines.
So, who will end up owning Flipboard? Quite honestly, I think it depends on the reason Flipboard has for wanting to sell. Re/code has suggested that Flipboard’s user numbers have leveled off recently, partly because the app is no longer installed by default on Samsung phones. Suggestions have also been made that it’s just increasingly hard to attract audiences and that news readers, even those as beautiful and functional as Flipboard, have limited appeal.
If the rationale behind Flipboard’s decision to offer itself up for sale is just that its user numbers have leveled off as a result of the end of the aggregator’s deal with Samsung, then it might make perfect sense for Google to snap up the company. Integrating Flipboard with the Android operating system would give Google a key differentiator in the mobile device market while also driving the company’s news content to iOS devices.
If the problem is a lack of appeal, that could be why Twitter’s talks have stalled. If the social media company is trying to increase its userbase, Flipboard might not be the answer to that problem. Many Flipboard users are already Twitter users, so it wouldn’t make sense for the social media company to acquire a service that won’t further its goals.
It will be interesting to watch the talks develop. I suspect Google and Yahoo will both make their own offers for Flipboard, since both companies have seen the importance of getting their news content to mobile devices. Google, however, makes the most sense as being the highest bidder for the news aggregator. Not only does Google have the buying power, but it has the leverage of its own operating system to jump start Flipboard’s flattening growth.