Flipboard launches 'social magazine' for iPad, struggles with demand

Palo Alto, Calif. based Flipboard launched what it called the "first social magazine" for the iPad Wednesday, however it quickly found out that a much-hyped launch can lead to trouble in keeping the service online for its users.

Tech luminary Robert Scoble twittered incessantly in the hours leading up to the launch, giving few details on the product other than calling it the "killer app" for the iPad and "revolutionary."

Perhaps Scoble was right -- the application appears to take the concept of the RSS reader and combine it with the power of social media in a way that has yet to be done.

Content from the user's social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are combined with Flipboard's preset content sections, and are displayed in a format akin to a magazine. The application also works like the traditional news reader: the user would be able to add their own feeds into the application to further personalize the content.

In addition to personalization, users would also be able to interact with content posted by friends and displayed in Flipboard without leaving the application, making the experience more interactive.

"We believe the timeless principles of print can make social media less noisy, more visually compelling and ultimately more mainstream," CEO Mike McCue said.

Flipboard has also announced the acquisition of Ellerdale, a Menlo Park, Calif. company which uses semantic analysis to cull through data and extract relevant information. This technology will be used to make it easier for Flipboard to create a relevant experience for its users, and be able to introduce them to trending topics on social networks.

While Ellerdale's technology did not make it into the first version of Flipboard, the company said the next version will include the technology. Right now the service is free, and the company says it plans to monetize the service by offering interactive magazine-like ads interspersed among the content, GigaOm reported.

There is the possibility that subscription models could be introduced in the future, as well as revenue-sharing for those content providers whose content is featured through Flipboard's preset channels.

So far, it appears that the application is pretty much an instant hit. It is already the #1 free app in the App Store, and the company has had to throttle new user registrations by switching to an invitation system where it can control the flow.

"We want to ensure people who have Flipboard have a great experience, and also give new users more immediate access. Thanks for your patience," the company said in a tweet sent Wednesday afternoon.

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