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Zite launches platform to highlight partners' stories

Publishers who join the program can increase visibility with their own sections that readers can choose when setting themselves up on the popular news reader.

A look at the Bleacher Report front page in Zite. As one of the initial sites to join the Zite publisher platform, Bleacher Report will have its own section in the personalized news reader. Zite

Aiming to work more closely with top-tier publishers, the popular news reader Zite today unveiled a platform that will prominently highlight stories from its media partners.

Zite, which works on iOS and Android devices, is built around the concept of giving people personalized news in discrete subject sections like "technology," "politics," "sports," and so on. People can choose as many sections as they like, and stories are algorithmically curated at least in part based on people's feedback about whether they do or don't like stories, publications, and even individual authors.

Now, with the launch of the Zite publishing platform, users will be able to add sections for the specific news outlets that have joined the program. The initial nine partners are The Huffington Post, VentureBeat, The Next Web, The Motley Fool, the Daily Beast, Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, HLNtv, and CNN, which purchased Zite last summer for a reported $20 million to $25 million.

The idea behind the program, according to Zite CEO Mark Johnson, was to come up with a new way to match up publishers' content with readers. And the result of the platform is expected to be a lot of new eyeballs for those publishers.

Johnson said that the publishers' sections will be "Ziteified," meaning that the stories readers see will still be curated to some extent. So, for example, while CNN may put out more than 200 stories a day, Zite users will likely see only the 20 or so that the service's algorithms think are most relevant for them. "From the firehose," Johnson said, "we'll select the ones that are most appropriate" for each user. And that also means that stories that might have been buried on the publisher's own Web site could be surfaced for some readers on Zite.

One big advantage for the publishers that sign up for the new program is that Zite will proactively upsell their content at the end of articles. Johnson explained that publishers will have the option of embedding a "house ad" in stories that can point to, say, a subscription or even to the publisher's iPad or iPhone magazine.

At the same time, Zite can also upsell the publishers' sections in stories found in the regular sections, Johnson said.

But beyond the upselling opportunities, Zite's new platform is likely to prove to be a good way for readers to mix in stories from outlets they know they like with the standard flow of stories chosen by Zite's algorithms.

And as more news sites sign up for the program, it could become an attractive option for publishers that have until now not reached any kind of deal with Zite. Those sites' stories are currently still readable on Zite, but only through the app's internal browser, and without any special formatting. Now, publishers like The New York Times -- which currently has no official Zite integration -- could see the value of having its own section.

Although Zite lets users create many dozens of subject-matter sections, most choose far less than that. On average, Johnson said, users select about 12 sections. And despite how many publishers end up joining Zite's new program, he doesn't expect users to expand the number of sections too much.

Ultimately, it's still too soon to know if Zite will attract enough publisher partners to the new program to make a big impact. In the early going, the first set of eight partners will likely provide enough stories to satisfy many readers and keep them looking forward to additional partners. But the more publishers Zite can sign up, the more its app will be able to offer readers and the more potential Zite will have to be a single landing spot.

Zite has pursued other types of partnership ventures, such as its deal with Intel to incorporate sponsored stories into Zite's technology section. So it's probable to imagine that a wide variety of content producers will want to have their articles featured in an app that has become one of the world's leading news aggregators.