It was rumored last week during the GROW conference, but today it’s been confirmed. Vancouver-based Zite has been acquired by CNN (Techvibes and RWW) for a rumored $20–25 million. Beyond kudos to the developers (who came out of UBC), I think this affirms what I’ve thinking for sometime—apps like Zite, Summify, and Flipboard might very well be the future of newspapers.
Zite is a “content discovery engine” wrapped in an iPad app, one that many of us find essential to keeping up with news. Unlike apps like Flipboard, Zite (and Summify) use your social network and Google Reader to power what news might be interesting to you. Well, that’s the first step. As you read you give articles and topics the thumbs up or down. You can further refine your choices by indicating if you want more news based on subtopics within the larger topic. All this is based on the Worio search and content engine, which is pretty darn amazing in practice.
As for Zite within CNN (Time-Warner), word is that Zite’s content choices will remain independent from CNN influence. Exactly what we’d hope and expect because Zite could become the saving grace of the newspaper.
Not your normal newspaper
No, Zite isn’t going to replace journalism or journalists. It can’t, Zite needs news articles to continue to be published to have fodder to present to readers. However, Zite could very well become the engine for how news companies start to build the new, newspaper.
Say you’re a newspaper in a medium-sized market. Craigslist and other online services are killing your previous sources of revenue. People are consuming more news online and feel less inclined to pick up a large, messy newspaper to read—especially when they only read a small portion of it. Now, you license a custom version of Zite. Call it, say, Zite Vancouver. Part of the news is pushed from the sponsor (yes, pre-seeding news articles into the app), the rest is pulled from sources as Zite normally does now. Even the pre-seeded articles still have thumbs up/down (like I never read the Homes or Cars sections of the Vancouver Sun app even though I still read the news through it daily), so readers can customize the news they want to read. Interspersed within the articles are ads.
Yes, ads. I know, but you have to pay the piper somehow.
News is mobile. Mobile is news.
Between tablets and advanced smartphones, people are finding that getting news on a device is convenient and cool. I read the Vancouver Sun with my cereal and coffee. I catch up through Summify and Zite. CNN knows that people just want to find interesting news and have it be convenient. Step away from the “computer” have a coffee and catch up on news. There is power—and profit—to be had in helping people feed their craving for information.
CNN sees this. CNN might keep the original Zite app intact and supported (and improved), but you can bet that the technology behind it is going to do all sorts of things for how news is consumed from now on.
And it all started in Vancouver.
Originally posted on the Future Shop Tech Blog.