Zite Unveils Publisher Program

April 16, 2012


Last week, Zite unveiled its new Publisher Program, that will highlight stories from its media partners - creating publisher-specific sections to exist alongside its subject-based sections. The program is launching with eight publishers including CNN, Bleacher Report and The Huffington Post. Zite is a popular algorithm driven news app that creates a personalized, magazine-like reading experience.

Zite partnering with its publishers is a win win situation for both parties, and I’m not sure why publishers had not looked into executing this model before. Clearly the aggregation and algorithm strategy has been highly successful because it delivers exactly what consumers want to see, and now publishers will be able to deliver their brand at a much more intense level without aggravating the consumer.

People like brands. People like being associated with these brands. Now there is a model for both the publisher to be able to push its own content while the audience can consume the publication, or brand-specific content at their own leisure, while also only reading about the topics they want.

No money is changing hands but publishers will be able to place a house ad at the bottom of their sections - directing readers to their own apps or Web sites. I wonder how long Zite plans on only having the publishers house ads at the bottom of their sections? Because this is the only form of advertising Zite currently has (for now, there are no third-party ads), it is an added bonus to the publisher.

For a long time, Facebook was essentially an untouched and clean environment that its users loved. Then it grew immensely with hundreds of millions of users and started selling ad space that generates millions of dollars in revenue.  It has become cluttered with messaging and ads, which is possibly causing its approval rating to decline. It will be interesting to see the impact that the addition of in-house ads has on Zite’s users.

It’s possible that Zite is under less pressure to generate revenue because CNN purchased it for $20 to $25 million last year. Time will tell how this relatively new ownership will affect Zite’s aggregation model - which aims to provide news from a wide variety of sources that have different style, perspectives and agendas.

It’s challenging think that a news aggregation service that is promoting specific publishers’ content, while being owned by one of those publishers, does not plan to promote that publisher’s content more than the other sources. Not to say that Zite has that agenda but it’s something Zite might want to address with its users as I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering about it.

Michael Grothaus from tuaw.com writes, “...it's possible CNN wants Zite for its underlying
technology to incorporate into its existing iPad app, allowing for a more personalized experience for its users. Or, who knows, perhaps CNN wants to get into the magazine aggregator business on all its own...”

Overall I feel like Zite is a valuable app that has experienced some remarkable success. When a news consumer can easily access the content they are looking for, without having to search for it, they are probably going to stick with it. Zite has figured out the formula to provide just that.