Yesterday’s news of the purchase of Zite, the mobile device app owned by CNN, by Flipboard was a surprise to me as it no doubt was for other long-time fans of Zite. Flipboard buying Zite seemed backwards to us. Shouldn’t Zite be buying Flipboard? Shouldn’t the superior product buy the lesser product? Those kinds of quality judgments are tricky. It is the whole oranges and apples quandary and, dating myself, I am reminded of the BetaMax versus VHS competition of the 80s. Superior is in the eye of the beholder.
In the months between the time my old iPad 2 was pick-pocketed on Chicago’s blue line train last summer heading from the airport to a downtown hotel, and a few weeks ago when I sprang for replacement of sorts, a new iPad mini, the app that I most missed was Zite. It delivers the news content I hope to find when I follow a trend or topic. It gives me the ability to curate news in an informed and timely manner. There is a qualitative difference in material returned from my searches. Zite worked the best of any news delivery apps I tried. It was the first app I loaded on the new iPad mini as I brought my old apps back from their near death experience in the iCloud.
I tried out Flipboard during my first days with my iPad 2 in 2011, and found it to be okay, but not great. Even back then as a techy, info-nerd I knew my assessment would have no relationship to the overall success or failure of the app. My assessment was based on my own informational business needs which are categorically different from most social media users. I evaluate products on my ability to incorporate them into my work or my client needs, and not the chit chat that takes up so much bandwidth.
Those things said, after some pondering of the purchase of Zite, the merger bodes well for the future of pertinent, on-the-go information delivery. Success for information services in the edgy, glitzy, global market of this sort requires scale and pizazz. Zite has great retrieval while Flipboard has great visual appeal. I wouldn’t leave Zite for Flipboard, and no one is asking me to, but I might use, and love, a product with the visual edge of a Flipboard “magazine” and the smart, deep-search sense of Zite.
I use Zite all the time as a finding tool for content curation, but I did not want to write this piece without giving Flipboard a spin to see what it is like today. So I created this magazine. Click on it to check it out.
I was frustrated that I could not get the kind of content which I knew was on the web from inside Flipboard. There is a toolbar interface for Flipboard that I have added to the toolbar that sits atop my web browser, and this will alleviate some of the hassle of getting the the content I want into a Flipboard magazine.
After initial skepticism, I cannot wait until I can see the new improved Zite/Flipboard hybrid product. If I can curate intelligently and produce bright, shiny, happy content with their offsping, I will be one happy camper.
The word is that it will be about six months before Zite goes away and a new and improved Flipboard will be available.