Zite’s Personalized News App Comes To Google Glass

Zite joins its parent company CNN with an app of its own for the wearable headset.

Mark Johnson is possibly the only person in the world who has gone through two pairs of Google Glass in five weeks. (He chalks up the loss of his first pair to an unfortunate brunch incident.) During a recent interview with Fast Company, the CEO of personalized news app Zite was staring into the tiny screen of his new robin egg blue Glass perched on his face, hands gesturing in mid-air as he discussed the ways he’ll be able to use this device to deliver the news of the future.


Today Zite is releasing its first Google Glass app, which will allow wearers to scroll through a list of the personalized news magazine’s top 10 story picks. As with its smartphone and tablet apps, Zite for Glass’s stories are customized. No two Zite users will ever see the same array of top stories.

Zite joins several other media brands that already have presences on Glass, including its parent company CNN, Elle, and The New York Times. So far, all the news apps on the device work mostly the same–you can scroll through headlines, have Glass read stories aloud to you, and then share them to Facebook or Twitter. These limitations are largely a product of Glass’s current constraints–app makers can’t offer much beyond notifications.

But notifications on Glass are exactly what Johnson wants to perfect moving forward. The key to “winning” at news notifications, Johnson suggests, will be nailing context–in other words, knowing enough about what a user is doing at any given time to intelligently guess what kind of news he or she would like to know about.

“If I’m at a club at 2 a.m. on a Saturday and I’m wearing my Google Glass, I probably care about certain types of stories less than if it’s a Monday and it’s 11 a.m. and I’m at work,” Johnson said. “Where you are, what you’re doing, what kind of emails are coming in, does it have access to your calendar–you start imagining this world of notifications that start getting really smart.”

Since Zite was acquired by CNN in 2011, the startup has doubled as a research lab for the news organization, and Johnson says the technology developments Zite can achieve on Glass could eventually be applied more broadly across other CNN’s properties. This first app, of course, will only be available to the few thousand Glass “Explorers” who were granted early access to the device. But for now, Johnson is more concerned with getting on the platform as early as possible.

“If you believe wearables are coming, which I do, I want to make sure we’re at the forefront of that and make sure we can figure out how to deliver the news on these new devices.”


[Images courtesy of Zite]

About the author

Christina is an associate editor at Fast Company, where she writes about technology, social media, and business.