Flipboard just gobbled up one of its strongest competitors, buying reading app Zite from CNN for an undisclosed sum.
Zite's iOS and Android apps aren't going away, but they won't receive any more updates, as most of Zite's employees will join the Flipboard team. A blog post by Flipboard says users will "soon be able to enjoy a great Zite experience on Flipboard," but didn't reveal any more details.
Both Flipboard and Zite try to reinvent magazine-style reading for smartphones and tablets, taking articles from around the Web and displaying them in a clean, print-like format. Unlike Flipboard, Zite had the ability to learn your preferences as you used the app, tailoring its reading lists to match the subjects and sources you showed an interest in. Reading Zite was just a little less predictable--in a good way.
Still, Flipboard has always been the more popular of the two apps. When Flipboard first launched in 2010, it seemed to epitomize what a tablet app could be, with an eye-catching design that generated lots of early buzz. While Zite has not revealed user numbers, its Google Play Store listing shows 500,000 to 1 million total installs, compared to Flipboard's 1 million to 5 million installs. (Flipboard revealed in November that it has more than 100 million users.)
Flipboard has since tacked on new features such as user-created magazines and product catalogs; it's also made deals with major publishers such as the New York Times. But it's still missing that learning element that could help magazines feel more personalized. Presumably that's what Zite's technology will provide. To put it another way, Zite users' loss will be Flipboard users' gain.
Zite had been owned by CNN since August 2011. It's unclear what Flipboard will pay CNN as part of the deal--the CNN Money website valued the purchase at $60 million, though CNN itself told Reuters that amount wasn't accurate.