Last April Fools' Day, publishers from Time Inc. to the Washington Post Company sent fast-growing startup Zite an aggressive cease-and-desist letter. The publishers weren't joking, accusing Zite's app, a personalized news reader for the iPad and iPhone, of copyright infringement and calling it "plainly unlawful."
"If every user that comes [to Bing or Google] is getting a personalized experience based on Facebook data, based on the web graph, based on the social graph—holy crap, that's a lot of processes to do," says Mark Johnson. "I think the economics just aren't there."
On the heels of FlipBoard's iPhone app, today personalized e-magazine Zite expands from the iPad to the iPhone, as well. The move by the nine-month-old startup, which CNN acquired in September for $20 million, demonstrates just how competitive the mobile aggregation space has become.