Flipboard Chinese Team, Eric Alexander (R3)

The Chinese team of mobile social magazine Flipboard recently released the latest update for its Chinese edition. The new version provides a more localized Flipboard experience with curated contents on regionally-relevant topics and localized features.

Eric Alexander is the vice president of Flipboard, mainly in charge of international business development. He met Flipboard’s CEO Mike McCue back in 1995 when they were working at Netscap. Before joining Flipboard in 2011, Eric also worked as business development manager at Tellme Networks, another business founded by Mike McCue. Technode got a chance to visit Eric at his office in Beijing this week.

What’s the proportion of Chinese contents in the new edition?

Chinese contents account for 98% to 99% of the total. Our Chinese team is in discussion with more Chinese content providers in addition to existing ones like Sina Weibo. We did not include video and audio contents in China, although they are very popular in the U.S. But we have started talks with audio content providers like Xiami and Douban FM. One major problem we are facing now is technical obstacle. China just launched 4G networks, but most of the smartphone users are either 2G or 3G subscribers. It will be traffic-consuming for them to watch video and audio contents if they are not in a Wifi environment. That’s why we are trying to construct a technical team in China.

Isn’t there going to have any English contents in the Chinese version of Flipboard?

We keep part of the English contents, but not all of them. We have around 8,000 content providers around the world and it will be too much to integrate all the contents from them. We will put more focus on localized contents.

The English contents we provided in the Chinese version mainly cover gourmet food, fashion, photography and technology, because lots of Chinese people are interested in what’s happening in Silicon Valley or western food and fashion industry. But we do not stream news, since that’s not what Chinese readers interested in. And we respect Chinese laws, the U.S. version of Flipboard has contents from The New York Times, but they will not be included in the Chinese version.

How do you see the cooperation between content providers and content distributors?

We are lucky to have more than 400 close partners, whose Chinese versions will also cooperate with us in China. We respect their decisions and will not use their contents without permission.

I have been rejected when expanding our business in the U.S. We were asked to pay for the contents at the beginning of our cooperation, but I explained that we can share profits with them after attracting more readers with their contents. We inked agreements after they understand our business model. Vanity Fair and New Yorker, two magazines under Condé Nast Publications Inc. are our partners now.

Both Time and People have rejected us, but when they see how we bring advertising profits to other partners, they also cooperate with us.

How does Flipboard bring profits to content providers in the U.S.?

We monetize the service by advertisements. Flipboard will add ads to articles shown in the app and we will share the profits from these ads with content providers.

Our ads are beautifully designed with video and textual contents. They can be subscribed and the number of subscribers will be shown in the interface.

Flipboard 1

Have you agreed on Flipboard’s Chinese name?

We are still in the process of finding a proper Chinese name. Several Chinese names we considered suitable have been registered and it will cost several millions of dollars to buy them. But it is a minor problem and we are promoting the English name “Flipboard” now.

What’s your obstacles in localization?

Establishing a Chinese technical team is our biggest obstacle now, because it will take a lot of time.

Some industry insiders think that Flipboard entered Chinese market too late, what’s your opinion?

Some people say we come too late, but others say we come too early. Even if we were late, I think the potential of Chinese market is still huge. I once consulted Du Hong, Sina’s COO who is also a close friend of us, on this matter, she said we are coming to China at a good timing.

What’s your marketing plan in Chinese market?

We don’t have any budget for marketing, but we are cooperating with smartphone makers like Samsung. We are the content provider for Samsung’s My Magazine. You can see Flipboard logo on every article shown in My Magazine. In addition, our rankings in iOS and Android app stores are among the tops. I consider this favorable word-of-mouth an effective marketing.

Like in the U.S., we also cooperate with local media like Tencent and Sina.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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