What CNN Really Gets With Its Acquisition of Zite

The media company bought the iPad news reader site for 20 million

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In an anticipated move, today CNN acquired iPad news reader Zite. "CNN," the network announced, "has added Zite to its already robust portfolio of digital products as a separate, stand-alone business that will continue to innovate and provide users with the news and information they want." For now the company claims that Zite will remain a separate entity, yet  CNN here is joining other media organizations in clearly pursuing new ways to deliver content. The acquisition cost something in the 20 million dollar range. Was it worth it?

People do seem to want a more personalized Internet news experience. While RSS readers and Twitter allow you to streamline the information coming in, they are ugly and don't allow for that much customization. These iPad news readers, like AOL's editions, fix some of these issues and CNN wants in on that. And most importantly they want readers to see their content, explains Epicenter's Ryan Singel. "One could imagine then an app that uses Zite technology that features only CNN-owned and partnered technology, which would allow the app to dispaly content as it fits and with integrated advertising--with no worries about copyright infringement or negotiating with publishers." For now CNN claims that Zite will remain a separate entity, but access to the technology could prove useful for CNN, argues GigaOm's Darrell Etherington. CNN is smart to be pursuing it; the tech behind the app could help put its content in front of eyes that appreciate it with greater frequency and accuracy, which should in turn lead to more a more faithful audience.

But CNN is entering a pretty competitive space. These types of iPad reader technologies are all over the place now,  explains AllThingsD's Kara Swisher, rattling off "high-profile efforts such as Flipboard, Livestand from Yahoo, AOL’s Editions and start-ups such as Pulse and Zite." And Zite isn't the most popular kid on the block, as TechCrunch's Jordan Crook points out. "Flipboard-esque magazine-style aggregation apps are all the rage right now. Obviously Flipboard has the space nailed, and Pulse is a nice alternative as well." With so much competition, Zite might not really stand out.

But even if Zite doesn't rise to the top, CNN at least has the tech in its back-pocket, just in case. "The primary reason for CNN to acquire Zite," CNN Digital General Manager KC Estenson told Etherington, "is to provide it the support it needs to continue reaching audiences and pushing personalized content discovery to new heights.

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