Digital Media Wire – Zite Acquired by Former Adversary CNN

CNN has acquired a company it once threatened with legal action. CNN Worldwide has purchased technology company Zite, whose flagship product is an iPad news app that gives users a personalized magazine-like experience.

Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, said the wholly-owned Zite would continue to operate as a separate, stand-alone business. Zite CEO Mark Johnson will continue to run the startup’s day-to-day operations out of San Francisco, but now will report to KC Estenson, general manager of CNN Digital. Zite founder/executive director Ali Davar and chief technology officer Mike Klass also remain with the company.

“Zite represents the next generation of content discovery and personalized publishing, and CNN wants to help lead in that space,” Estenson said. “We think we can advance the industry in a meaningful way that helps content creators expand their businesses while growing the distribution of a product that people already love. The Zite technology can also help CNN’s Websites and apps serve more personalized content, making our current digital services even better.”

Zite learns users’ preferences, getting better the more often it’s used, and uses that knowledge to provide an individually personalized experience from a variety of sources. Users “train” the app simply by reading what interests them. The technology then factors in each person’s activities with its own algorithms and known data patterns to serve up a magazine-style selection of content. The news regarding CNN was first reported by TechVibes several days ago before being officially confirmed.

“Through this acquisition, our goal is to help get Zite in the hands of more people,” Estenson said. “We see a trend developing here, one that is about the future of content discovery, and we believe that increasingly people will come to learn about new types of content based as much upon their personal interests and passions as they do the news of the day. “

CNN’s parent company Time Warner Inc., along with The Washington Post, AP, Dow Jones and Getty Images, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Zite in March that contended the free app was misappropriating intellectual property. Zite responded immediately by linking to the content from those companies rather than enabling them to be read directly in the app.

Zite is based in San Francisco with offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It began to take shape at the University of British Columbia before it became Zite in 2010. Zite has received $4 million in total funding that includes grants from Canada’s National Research Council, PRECARN and Mitacs.