Tenuous Relationship With Twitter Aside, Flipboard Reminds Us It’s Alive and Well
Changes are afoot in the Twitterverse. As the company’s API remains in a state of strange, undefined flux, outside companies who use it now find themselves questioning just how reliable it is to build a business on Twitter data.
Flipboard is arguably the most prominent third-party company put in an awkward position (so much so that, as I’ve reported previously, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue stepped down from Twitter’s board earlier this year). Due to the way the company displays tweets, I’ve heard from multiple sources that it is in line to hit Twitter’s chopping block in the not too distant future.
All that said, Flipboard doesn’t want to sit back and let the rumors swallow it up. Coming off its second birthday, the company released a slew of new stats on how well it has fared over the past year. It’s most likely a bit of wagging the dog, hoping press outlets and Flipboard enthusiasts take the growth and numbers at face value without considering the implications of what a Twitter-less Flipboard may look like in the future.
Still, the numbers are impressive for a young, mobile-only start-up. The company has added 15 million users over the past eight months, a 300 percent increase from the end of 2011, and is now up to 20 million total users. That includes 1.5 million people using the Flipboard apps daily across more than 200 countries around the world. Not bad.
What’s unclear, however, is whether or not that 20 million number means registered users or actual active users. If it’s just the number of folks who have signed up, it isn’t that impressive — after all, a service is only as good as its retention rate. But if it is indeed 20 million active users of the service, it’s a nice surprise, a seeming answer to the “Is Flipboard dead?” question that is on many folks’ minds. I’ve asked Flipboard for clarification, and I’ll update this if they get back to me.
Update, August 29, 5:47 PDT:A Flipboard spokeswoman got back to me, saying that the 20 million figure is the number of people who have actually used Flipboard, rather than just installs or downloads. Still unclear how many of those are active, but the consistently active (and most revealing) metric that Flipboard notes is the 1.5 million user number. (/end update)
If (or should I say, when) Twitter chokes off Flipboard’s API access, the momentum of its large user base could keep the app afloat for some time. But McCue and his team will need to figure out another stream of content to make up for the loss of tweets. It seems Google+ is where Flipboard is aimed at the moment — we’ll see if that’s enough.