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Social media

With 5 billion video and photo shares a month, Flipagram aims to take on Instagram

App marries smartphone videos and photos with music, offering a way to share visual content that’s popular with emerging artists as well as established stars such as Channing Tatum and Beyoncé

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2016, 11:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2016, 11:01am

She’s on Vine, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. But the social app of choice for classically trained pop singer Emm is Flipagram. “I just passed 100,000 fans,” she says.

Flipagram marries smartphone videos and photos with popular music. Some 40 million people monthly (an increase from 10 million a year ago) visit the free app to repackage their smartphone photos and videos with popular music, everything from the latest Justin Bieber hit to a Frank Sinatra classic.

WATCH a Hong Kong Flipagram

A photo/video sharing growth rate of 300 per cent year-over-year has lured in big investors in the US. Five billion photos and videos are shared monthly on the app, a rate that’s growing, but still far behind the eight billion videos viewed every day each on both Snapchat and Facebook.

Some of the Los Angeles-based start-up’s enthusiasts are emerging artists such as Emm, who use it to showcase their music to new fans. She found a manager and club dates just by posting videos with her music to the app. Other users want to share their photos in a form that’s different from Instagram collage.

The three-year-old company, co-founded by serial entrepreneur Farhad Mohit, is offering a visual-first culture a new way to share their products – music.

“People, especially younger millennials, take so many pictures during the day,” he says. “They speak and communicate daily with pictures.”

Beyond up and coming talent, big-name celebrities like Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Channing Tatum and Madonna are also on the app, and each have posted their own photo/video music slideshows. The company won’t comment on valuation, but TechCrunch recently estimated it at over US$300 million.

WATCH Gwyneth Paltrow’s Hong Kong Flipagram

WATCH another Hong Kong Flipagram

“There’s a reason celebrities have found it (Flipagram),” says Michael Moritz, the chairman of Sequoia, a venture capital firm backing Flipagram. “It answers a need for them that they can’t get on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, a way to weave in stills and videos simply with music.”

While the app is free, Flipagram brings in money by selling the right to remove the Flipagram watermark for US$1.99 a time.

There’s a reason celebrities have found [Flipagram]. It answers a need for them that they can’t get on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, a way to weave in stills and videos simply with music
Michael Moritz, Flipagram investor

The company’s main focus is on user growth. But it’s competing in a crowded arena.

There are dozens of apps to make music videos from photos and videos, (like musical.ly and Vidify), and apps to either collect or share photos. Facebook’s “Moments” app bunches Camera Roll photos and videos together, for instance. And Instagram is the top photo sharing app, with 400 million monthly users and 40 billion photos shared to date.

Flipagram distinguishes itself in two ways – length of social video and its music library.

Similar social products are much shorter: Vine’s are only six seconds long and Instagram videos 15 seconds, but Flipagram lets folks go as long as 60 seconds.

And Facebook, Instagram, and Vine don’t have tools to merge pictures and videos with licensed music, like Flipagram does.

Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, is a fan of the app. “It really simplifies the whole idea of stringing media together to make your own personal stories,” he says.

When on a trip, you don’t take one photo of Paris, but many, says Mohit. “You talk about ... the whole trip. All that can be strung together in a Flipagram, and it tells the whole story.”

Tribune News Service