Zite Brings Personalized News Content to the iPad

Recently CNN bought Zite. Here we talk with Zite’s CEO, to find out what’s going on in this hot category and how Zite differs from the other players in the field.

There are a host of different applications that are available to help us organize and consume the content we receive on our mobile devices. Zite is one such product, and it’s quickly becoming one of the hottest and most talked about apps on the market.

“One thing that people don’t know about Zite,” explains Mark Johnson, CEO of Zite, “is that we’re almost six years old as a company, so we’ve been developing technology for all this time…so it turns out there’s a lot of great technology under the hood that allows us to figure out exactly the kinds of things you like to read and give you more of it. I think that in this world of news clutter, people don’t just want another app that’s a veneer over the RSS feeds that they’ve had in the past. They want something that is really tailored towards them.”

Zite, currently available for the iPad, personalizes the news you receive in a number of different ways. It can tap into your Google Reader or Twitter feed to see the links you and your friends share. It can display articles based on the subjects you choose from over 5,000 categories. You can give each article a thumbs up or thumbs down. And you can click on key words within articles to indicate a preference to receive more content with a similar subject matter. Each time you read an article on Zite, it learns more about your interests.

“One of the things I like to do every week,” says Johnson, “is I add a new topic on Zite that I don’t know anything about…It’s just fun to pick something that’s current and say, ‘Huh, I’m going to learn something new.’ It’s sort of like your search vs. sift thing. It’s like, ‘show me an interesting stream of information about topic X.’ That’s much different than just seeing a few web results.”

Whereas the offline world uses human editors to determine which news items are most important and deserve the most prominent placement, Zite uses algorithms that take into account your preferences as well as the buzz around each story to create the layout of pages. The more you use the app, the more customized it becomes, but Zite hopes it will prove useful right from the beginning.

“When a person first comes into the application,” explains Johnson, “you want to give them a really interesting stream of information. So one of the most important things we do at Zite is to determine the interestingness of an article and what category it falls into, so even if you’ve never personalized Zite before and we don’t know a thing about you, if you choose something like art or architecture, we should be able to give you lots of interesting articles that will allow you to start interacting with the system so we learn the kinds of things that you like.”

This article and video were printed with permission from Building 43.

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The day Twitter kicked CNN's behind & @ev bought me a whisky

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

Yesterday is the day when Twitter thoroughly beat CNN. Badly beat CNN. Embarrassingly beat CNN. And most other USA-based media too.

Over on friendfeed we’ve been talking about this for the past 12 hours. Here’s one thread on CNN’s horrid news judgment.

This second thread is interesting because of the number of interesting news sources linked to by various people. Don’t miss the photos and videos. Great examples of photojournalism.

ReadWriteWeb wrote a good post to CNN.

I’ve been clicking “like” on the best items about Iran that have come through friendfeed. The photo above I found on TwitPic here. Pulitzer Prize winning material.

OK, so last night something else really weird happened.

My friend Luke Kilpatrick (he lives a couple of blocks away from me) invited me down to the Ritz at about 9 p.m. tonight. He met up there with a couple of geeks. While there he introduced me to Philip Kaplan (the guy who started AdBrite and Fucked Company), Scott Raymond, and Rachel Luxemberg, who is a community manager at Adobe.

It was dark, so I couldn’t see who else was there around the fire ring out back.

Anyway, I was pretty passionate about this CNN story, since every hour we had been turning through the channels trying to learn about Iranian news (my wife is Iranian and hadn’t been able to call her relatives in Tehran). So I was telling Luke about how Twitter was totally kicking ass over CNN (CNN, when I kept turning it on, had nothing on and, instead was playing shows like Larry King Live with a couple of guys who build motorcycles).

That’s when I heard a voice say “what are you saying about Twitter?” I looked up and it’s Evan Williams, founder/CEO of Twitter. Oh, hi!

Anyway, I congratulated him on kicking USA’s media’s behind (CNN wasn’t the only one who wasn’t covering the Iranian protests). We talked about a variety of things, including family (he has a kid on the way, his wife was there too) and the future of Twitter.

We talked about why he isn’t going to sell Twitter, but I’ll let him explain that all in a blog post. We talked about Building43, which has gotten a good chunk of traffic, because his competitor, Mark Zuckerberg gave me one of my first interviews there.

He said that Twitter would ship more new features in the next few months than it has in years. Anyway, I talked more about the evening on friendfeed. We ended up as a group up in the Ritz’ bar where Ev graciously bought us all drinks. That’s how I got my whisky.

I do have to admit it was cool seeing @ev on the evening when Twitter kicked CNN’s behind. Welcome to the Twitter News Network.

Oh, this week should be fun. I’m headed to New York to be on a panel with CNN’s Rick Sanchez at Jeff Pulver’s Twitter 140 conference. I’m definitely going to bring this up with Rick (there’s tons of people Twittering about CNN right now, it’s a trending topic on Twitter’s search and there’s even a hashtag titled #cnnfail).

It is there that I found Steve Bennen of the Washington Monthly talking about CNNFail. CNET too wrote about CNNFail.