Way back in March 2011, we covered the launch of Zite, a free, personalized iPad magazine that promised to get “smarter” the more you use it. And now, more than two years after Zite was acquired by CNN, its news aggregation competitor Flipboard has snapped it up in a deal originally thought to be valued at around $60m, though Flipboard has since revealed that this number is “inaccurate”. Indeed, CNN now reports that this figure is more likely to be what the deal will eventually be worth.
The news was revealed during a conference call this morning, which had representatives from both Flipboard and CNN in attendance. And although the big news is that Zite will be changing hands, this deal also heralds a new tie-up that will see CNN content pushed through Flipboard, including breaking news, entertainment, technology and business. Furthermore, Flipboard will serve up customized magazines for CNN programs. Symbiotic is certainly the key phrase here – CNN gets a massive boost on mobile, while Flipboard gets a ton of content in return.
For Zite, well, this ultimately means that its days are numbered. During the call, it was confirmed that Zite’s technology will be woven into Flipboard over time, with Zite ultimately ceasing to be. “We will also build a way for you to transition your data from Zite into Flipboard,” explained Zite co-founder and CTO Mike Klaas in a follow-up blog post. “Until then (for six months at a minimum), we will continue supporting Zite.”
On a related note, a number of key Zite staff will be moving to work in Flipboard’s Palo Alto offices – though interestingly it seems this won’t include Zite co-founder Mark Johnson. He says:
“Personally, my situation is a bit different and I won’t be joining Flipboard. I’m really glad that I ignored the odds and shepherded Zite through our CNN years. I’ve grown as a CEO and I’m very proud of my team. However, after being at four different successful startups, I’ve never started one myself and it’s time to change that. Though I’ve got a number of ideas, I haven’t settled on what I’d like to do next. So, I’ve decided to take some time off to think, hike, consult, travel, advise, meet, write, dream, read, study, and – probably most importantly – relax. For me, the best ideas come when I’m not looking for them.”
This is unquestionably a huge move in the content aggregation space. On the one hand, this will eventually lead to one less option for readers, but on the other hand, as Johnson notes: “The combination of our two teams is going to be an epic force.”