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Taptu’s Acquisition By MediaFed Hints At Smart Move To Put The Heat On Flipboard And The Rest

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Taptu, a competitor with Flipboard and Pulse in the ‘tablet news reader’ stakes, was aiming to be the new-new thing when it launched back in 2010. A few iterations and fund-raising’s later it’s fair to say that it concluded it was going to be tough to compete in that market. Today it’s announced its acquisition by Mediafed. Who, I hear you ask? London-based Mediafed has been around since 2007, selling advertising into the RSS feeds of major newspaper and magazine publishers. Financial terms were undisclosed, but to date Taptu has received $18 million in venture funding from 3i Group, Sofinnova Ventures and DFJ Esprit. Now, MediaFed will effectively use Taptu’s app – which will still be developed – as a vehicle for its client’s feeds (as well as whatever users themselves choose). Taptu CEO Mitch Lazar will stay on for a period as an adviser and the Taptu developer team stays on board.

MediaFed is an interesting company. It’s done almost no PR since its creation, hoping to fly under the radar of Google’s Feedburner, which has increasingly lost its way as a product. MediaFed has thus managed to amass 125 million users via building publisher relationships. MediaFed is actually profitable at this point and and says it has a mobile user base alone of 50 million visitors, generating revenue in 55 countries. It’s 2012 UK sales alone have hit £5 million.

Taptu as a company came from the mobile search world and was effectively a front-end to a large brainbox worth of Cambridge scientists. But though it’s search was good, and its pivot into tablet news app worked up tot a point, it’s lack of a Silicon Valley footprint and reach affected its growth greatly. So this acquisition will provide some sort of exit for founders and investors, whatever the under-lying terms of the deal.

Indeed, a brighter future may even await the Taptu app, which ran on phones and tablets in over 100 countries, across iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Samsung and mobile Web platforms.

The prospect now is that Taptu may well be in a better position than its competitors to monetize the ‘new reader app’ space, given that so Far Flipboard’s efforts in that realm have been pretty hit and miss. Most recently they produced an e-commerce catalogue for Levi’s for instance.

In addition, MediaFed’s pre-existing relationship with publishers puts them in good stead. Some news reader app startups have had threats of legal action when their RSS feeds have been appropriated. This would be quite a different story if they had a commercial arrangement, as many already do with MediaFed. MediaFed works with the The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Mundo and Sueddeutsche, among others. And Taptu’s mobile publishing platform, Tapform, powers the content for international publications The Guardian Environment and Dutch media outlet, De Pers.

Ashley Harrison, MediaFed CEO, says the acquisition will “create the first global platform to monetize RSS across all digital devices.” In an interview with TechCrunch he also hinted at a possible brand new product to come out of the merged group, around RSS.