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Flipboard Gets More Personal With Acquisition of Zite

5 March 2014 Ken Yeung No Comment

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On Wednesday, digital magazine publisher platform Zite was acquired for the second time … this time by its main competitor Flipboard in an all-stock transaction with CNN. You might remember that CNN picked up Zite in 2011 for $20 million. The deal will see Zite shuttered and the team moved over to Flipboard’s offices, with the exception of CEO Mark Johnson, who will be departing to pursue other ventures.

You can read more about the deal here, but what makes this fascinating is it opens up an incredible opportunity for Flipboard to get more personal in what users are reading on its mobile apps. Mike McCue, Flipboard’s co-founder and CEO, said in a blog post:

Adding Zite’s expertise in personalization and recommendations to Flipboard’s product experience and powerful curator community will create an unparalleled personal magazine for our millions of readers.

McCue acknowledges that it’s something that users have been requesting — easier discovery of content centered around things that matter to them. The company began experimenting with this capability through the redesign of its Cover Stories in January. In that case, the most popular section on Flipboard would surface key content that a user subscribed to so they could easily digest what’s happening in their world. At the time, the company’s other co-founder Evan Doll told me that over time, the service would learn about your reading behavior and recommend new content from subscribed sections.

That Amazon-like recommendation engine has just received a big boost through the impending integration of Zite’s platform. While many people viewed the two companies as competitors, Johnson disagreed, saying that Zite’s focus was different — it’s about topics, not publications. It billed itself up as a personalized magazine that “gets smarter as you use it” providing users with “tailored, engaging content” from numerous publishers on the Internet. In a sense, you might think of it as being very Pandora-like or maybe compare it to Prismatic and other news recommendation services.

One of the issues with Flipboard is that with all of their magazines created, both by its editorial team and those self-made, it could be an ordeal just to find out which stories are new. The magazines are also dependent on a user updating them instead of being done programmatically. With Zite’s algorithm, users may see multiple stories about a particular topic recommended to them to add to their own magazine.

In January, Doll shared with me that Flipboard’s update to Cover Stories was the beginning of a new feature the company was working on to help the app surface interesting content for users. Whether Zite was in the picture of the time remains a mystery, but now that it’s going to be a part of the family, things could begin to get more personal … maybe a blend of Facebook’s News Feed and Prismatic’s algorithm.

Happy reading!

Photo credit: Zite co-founder and CTO Mike Klaas and Flipboard CEO Mike McCue via Flipboard

Ken Yeung is a interactive strategist, project manager, and tech journalist. He's currently a Strategy and Research Content Lead at Orange Silicon Valley. Previously, he was the Bay Area Reporter for The Next Web, the Editor-in-Chief of Bub.blicio.us and a correspondent for Network Solutions' small business blog. These words are his own and not of his employer.