Zite has been acquired! Again!
Two and a half years after CNN acquired the personalized iMag (which mines your social media news feed for the stories that matter most to you) for $20 million, Zite has been bought from CNN by none other than arch rival Flipboard for $60 million.
As part of the deal, Flipboard is also partnering with CNN to launch custom news magazines based on CNN shows anchored by Fareed Zakaria, Jake Tapper, and John King.
“When we launched, people instantly wondered if we were a ‘Flipboard killer’, and I’ve had to answer more questions about being in their shadow in the last three years than I care to count,” wrote co-founder and CTO Mike Klaas, in a blog post Wednesday morning. “At times, I found the comparison frustrating: Zite’s focus was on topics, while Flipboard was mostly about publications; Flipboard was a reader for social media but Zite tried hardest to find articles you couldn’t find on your Twitter feed. The two products look superficially similar but couldn’t be more different under the hood.”
But Klaas says that the two companies obviously share the same vision, which is why they’re merging.
Founded in 2005 as a machine learning company called Worio, the startup relaunched in 2011 as Zite, a personalized news platform built exclusively for the iPad. As Klaas notes, while Flipboard is a social news aggregator (that has since branched out to partner with several leading magazines to include more content), Zite has focused more on curating content based on users’ interests and patterns. The more you use Zite, the better it gets at accurately identifying your reading preferences and serving up the content you want to see.
“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,” wrote Flipboard CEO Mike McCue, in a blog post.
Most of the Zite team will be joining the Flipboard crew, with the notable exception of CEO Mark Johnson. Johnson, who joined Zite shortly after the startup’s relaunch in 2011, says he’ll be taking time off and will eventually create a new startup of his own.
While the Zite app will continue to be operable for now, Flipboard plans to integrate Zite’s machine learning technology before eventually shutting it down.
As the personalized news space gets more competitive with the launch of Facebook Paper and LinkedIn’s acquisition of Pulse last year, Flipboard is no doubt looking to stay ahead of the curve. Earlier this year, Flipboard updated its Cover Stories feature to add more personalization and order, using technology it acquired from Ellerdale.
Flipboard has raised $161 million to date, including a $50 million add on to its Series C round last December, closing the round at $100 million. Investors include Kleiner Perkins, Index Ventures, Goldman Sachs, Jack Dorsey, Ashton Kutcher, and more.