Flipboard fires a shot across Pinterest’s bow with new curated brand catalogs

Flipboard, the magazine-style content platform for tablets and phones, already makes it easy for users to create their own virtual publications, made up of content they like from other sources — including advertisements. Now the Palo Alto-based company is adding the ability to pull together ads and listings for specific products into a kind of curated catalog, one which readers can use for actual ecommerce transactions as well as just window shopping.

These latest moves seem like a fairly obvious route for Flipboard to take, as it tries to appeal not just to readers but to buyers — and to advertisers. And they seem to take the platform even closer to the curated-commerce model of a site like Pinterest, which added “product pins” earlier this year that contain pricing information and other details about specific products that users save using the service, and make it easier for them to buy.

With Flipboard’s new features, which were scheduled to launch on Monday, both individual users and brands will be able to create their own collections of products, complete with prices and other information. Flipboard also launched a number of catalog-style magazines curated by celebrities and brands — including fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, singer Sara Evans and actress Alyssa Milano.

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There are also curated catalogs available from brands and retailers like Banana Republic, Birchbox, eBay, Fab and Levi’s, and Flipboard’s editorial staff have created almost a dozen magazines with products ranging from women’s wear to electronics. Flipboard founder and CEO Mike McCue said that the ability to add products to a magazine is one of the most-requested features since the company launched user-created collections earlier this year.

As part of the new features, Flipboard has launched a new “flip.it” bookmarklet that lets users “flip” products into a curated magazine or catalog from almost any ecommerce site. The company said that the new button detects when someone is flipping a product and allows them to add a price tag and other information.

The impetus for Flipboard’s interest in this area is obvious: Pinterest is already driving lots of traffic to retail sites like Martha Stewart’s — even more than Facebook — and that kind of behavior is likely part of the reason why the site recently raised a relatively massive round of funding: $225 million, an amount that values the entire company at close to $4 billion.