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CNN turns to Zite for its real-time zeitgeist

Using tech from the service it bought last year, CNN will give readers a list of the current ten most-talked about stories, along with a variety of outside content on each subject.

CNN Trends is a near-real time look at the ten stories that the world is talking about most.

Ever since CNN bought personalized mobile news aggregator Zite a year ago, people have tried to figure out the network's rationale. Today, it unveiled the first tangible benefit of the acquisition, CNN Trends, a snapshot of the current ten most talked-about topics.

Trends is "fueled" by Zite -- a service that provides personalized news for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7 users across thousands of categories -- meaning that its algorithms are determining, in near-real time, those ten topics, and in each case, matching's article on the subject with a balanced group of stories, blog posts, or videos from around the Web., like most news services, already had a trending stories feature, known as NewsPulse, but its articles were based entirely on what people were looking for and talking about on its own site. By comparison, Trends is based on algorithms that survey the Internet at large for the most discussed topics of the moment.

The network is clearly hoping that it can be a one-stop shop for people searching for the latest news, as for a variety of takes on each of the top stories.

For now, Trends will only work on full-scale browsers, and is not meant for mobile devices. But Mark Johnson, CEO of the San Francisco-based Zite, said that "we'll look at pushing CNN Trends to anywhere people need it."

Although this is the first concrete implementation of Zite on CNN, and therefore the first that directly answers the question of why the network paid a rumored $20 million-plus for the then-startup, it likely not the last project merging the two. Johnson said that Zite is currently looking to hire several people whose sole task would be to develop new features for CNN.