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Mobile news aggregator Zite is giving popular web publishers their own sections within its digital magazine apps, the company announced today.

Zite, which was  was acquired in August 2011 by CNN for over $20 million, lets you build a custom digital magazine by pulling in shared links from bookmarking and social sites, such as Twitter, Google Reader, Delicious and Read It Later. It then builds a personalized selection of articles based on activity from your social profiles. Unlike most of its competitors, Zite learns your reading habits by giving you voting buttons for each piece of content. The idea is to give you more of what you actually want to see without having to disregard all the boring and/or uninteresting stuff.

Unlike Zite competitor Pulse, the new publisher-specific sections aren’t just a bland RSS feed that dumps content into the app in real-time. Instead, the publisher sections will essentially function like regular topic-based sections (Technology, Politics, Science, etc.). The only real difference is that all the content comes from one source rather than several.

Initially, the Zite Publisher Program will add sections for a handful of news partners, including Bleacher Report, CNN, The Daily Beast, FOX Sports, HLNtv, Motley Fool, The Huffington Post, The Next Web, and yes, VentureBeat. Zite said the program will  be mutually beneficial to both itself and publishers.

“A publication like CNN publishes hundreds of posts everyday across (a wide range of) categories ,” said Zite CEO Mark Johnson in an interview with VentureBeat. That can be overwhelming for tablet users trying to find only the articles they care about. “With Zite, we’re able to aggregate a collection of only the posts that interest you within an algorithmically-curated section.”

Navigating through a content-heavy publisher’s website from a tablet’s native web browser is frustrating. You could easily spend more time searching for news than actually reading it. And since time is valuable, there’s definitely an advantage to having do the Zite curation for large news sites with a wide range of news coverage.

But news organizations with fewer daily posts and a specific range of news coverage (like VentureBeat or Bleacher Report) can also benefit from the Zite Publisher Program, the company said. In addition to an algorithmically curated section within the app, publishers also gain an attractive digital magazine-style user interface that’s optimized for mobile devices and social sharing. It’s also worth noting that most publishers don’t have the resources (or desire) to create and maintain an app with the same functionality of Zite.

That said, Zite’s publisher sections could actually end up boosting readership for its news partners. As part of the new program, Zite will send its news partners regular analytics reports to better understand how their sections are performing. Additionally, each news partner has the option of placing two house ads within their section. The ads, which are entirely optional, can plug official iOS or Android apps, subscription deals, premium memberships, and other forms of self-promotion. That definitely gives publishers an incentive, while encouraging people to stop using Zite’s app in favor of a preferred news source.

Zite’s Johnson said, however, that company isn’t concerned with people fleeing because Zite provides something individual news publishers can’t: quality news aggregation.

“People aren’t going to stop using aggregators, even if the majority of their news comes from one place,” Johnson told VentureBeat. After comparing Zite to some other popular news aggregators, I’m inclined to agree with his logic, too.

For example, a large chunk of links submitted to community news sharing site Reddit come from image sharing service Imgur. But surfing Imgur directly produces a fraction of quality results compared to Reddit’s user-generated news aggregation. Clearly, people value a good aggregator nearly as much as the news itself. The same is true for Zite when it comes to aggregating news on mobile devices.

The company said it will be adding several new partners to its Zite Publisher Program in the coming months. Founded in March 2011, San Francisco-based Zite faces a growing number of competitors, including Flipboard, Editions by AOL, Pulse News, and Google Currents. Zite’s app is available for free on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch as well as Android- and WebOS-powered devices.

Screenshots of Zite’s new publisher sections via Zite


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