Commentary

Will CNN Zap Zite?

Zite-mag-App

Will CNN's acquisition of Zite turn out to be the death knell for the personalized news reader app for the iPad? Another promising startup snuffed out by the suffocating embrace of a media giant grasping at the latest digital trend? It could well be. Consider Google just shuttered Slide, the once-hot social app developer it acquired only last year for about $200 million.

In announcing the deal today, CNN said all the right things: that Zite would continue operate as a standalone company and CEO Mark Johnson, founder and executive director Ali Davar and CTO Mike Klass would all remain in place. Johnson himself in a statement declared he was "thrilled" to join forces with CNN to create a "world-class news discovery platform."

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Certainly, Zite's investors are probably thrilled with the deal, coming less than six months after it launched its well-regarded news reader app that serves up a variety of content tailored to readers' tastes in a magazine-style format. But whether the company's founding team and standalone app will even be around a year from now is hard to say, given how fluid the digital media business is.

If part of CNN's stated intent is to incorporate Zite personalization technology into its own apps and sites, then the Zite app could effectively become the CNN app. And how much CNN or Time Warner content would feature post-acquisition is another question. Given the cease-and-desist orders Zite was hit with earlier this year from the likes of The Washington Post, AP and Dow Jones, it wouldn't be surprising if it relied more heavily on in-house content.

If nothing else, CNN's purchase of site will provide something of an A/B test to see how its fortunes unfold compared to its independent (for now) rival Flipboard. Both companies offer essentially the same type of app, and both have earned an impressive 4.5 out of five stars (for all versions of their respective apps) in the App Store. With a fresh round of $50 million funding, Flipboard has some time to prove out its ad-based model for the free app. That won't be easy. But it's more likely Flipboard will still be around as a free-standing app a year from now than Zite, as its reader technology is assimilated into CNN's digital offerings.
1 comment about "Will CNN Zap Zite?".
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  1. Jeff Imparato from Topeka & Shawnee Co. Public Library, August 31, 2011 at 10:44 a.m.

    Or will it allow the Zitegeist to continue? :->

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