Digital Transformation

Flipboard China CEO on why foreign internet businesses need to adapt for China

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By Charlotte McEleny | Asia Editor

January 13, 2017 | 4 min read

Flipboard announced its entry into China this week, revealing a joint venture with BlueFocus on a business that will allow product to change to fit local needs.

A team of 25 will begin creating partnerships and courting advertisers but has also been given the freedom to develop the product differently to the US business.

Flipboard China

Flipboard China CEO Jing Zhao discusses plans for the new business

The service will be primarily Chinese language content with a selection of curated foreign ‘high quality’ content, which it hopes will be a differentiator in the market.

Jing Zhao CEO of Flipboard China, spoke to The Drum about the launch, explaining that it was important to understand that the markets aren’t the same.

“The China internet market is very different from the US market. So even in the same content aggregation space, we are tackling quite different problems. Therefore it often requires different feature sets in the US and China. For example, the majority news stories in China are now created by the individual and small publishers on WeChat, instead of the traditional publishers. How to effectively discover and aggregate those stories becomes a prominent challenge, one that does not exist in US,” he explained.

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Flipboard plans to start with building different features for China and said it had already been working on these for the past year.

He added, “Examples of that are the dedicated short video feed and the dedicated feed to aggregate the best stories outside China; which we even plan to translate into Chinese. These features are only available in the China version of Flipboard.”

The two businesses wont be separate, however, and plan to use the in-market best practices to learn from one another by sharing innovations in tech and design. The joint venture with BlueFocus means that Flipbaord US has a seat on the board of the company.

According to Jing, the partnership is based off a shared vision and compatible views on technology innovation.

“We chose BlueFocus because Flipboard and BlueFocus share the same vision. We see the value of using the innovative technology to discover high quality content in a beautiful design, creating an environment that supports premium brand advertising. BlueFocus will bring us their experience to tackle the China local market, to deeply understand the product-market fit in China, and to tap into their strong premium ad network.”

Jing says the launch has been met with excitement because there’s an issue with there not being enough high quality content in China. This doesn’t mean FLipboard is without competition, however. “Content and media technology is one of the hottest areas in China, especially since 2015. There are many big players, such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, as well as start ups working on it. This shows the size and potential of this area is incredibly big.”

Flipboard is one of the original and most prominent names in an increasingly crowded market of businesses trying to monetise content on mobile and tablet. Flipboard CEO Mike McCue last year stood bullish as competition flooded into the market, including Apple News.

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