The Vancouver-based team behind the wildly popular news aggregator iPad app Zite says it will comply with a cease-and-desist letter it received this week from several high-profile media companies.
Zite, which bills itself as “a personalized iPad magazine that gets smarter as you use it,” collects and presents news from around the web in a streamlined reader-friendly format. It curates the content based on a user's Twitter account, RSS feeds and feedback they provide as they read articles.
It won lavish praise from some of the web's top tech blogs, got 120,000 downloads in its first week, and was catapulted atop the free section of Apple's App Store.
But it quickly got the attention of news organizations too.
On Wednesday, Zite received a letter co-signed by a list of heavyweights including the Associated Press, Dow Jones & Company, Gannett Co., Inc., Getty Images, the National Geographic Society, and Time Inc., claiming the app was “plainly unlawful” and “misappropriating” intellectual property.
Not surprisingly, publishers weren't pleased that ads attached to stories were being hidden from view.
“Our companies employ or contract with many thousands of people who investigate, report and publish our original content, and we spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on our news and information gathering and reporting,” reads the letter, shared by Zite.
“Your application takes the intellectual property of our companies, as well as the hard and sometimes dangerous work of tens of thousands of people. It deprives our websites of traffic and advertising revenue. We do not know your intentions, but your actions harm our companies and the broader media and news industry on which your application relies for its content.”
Zite founder and CEO Ali Davar said he was expecting to receive some sort of lawyer's letter and just didn't know when it would arrive.
“We had a few publishers contact us by email initially so we thought they would have this kind of reaction. We're complying, that is our reaction to it, we're just going to comply with whoever asks us,” he said.
Zite isn't removing the links to articles within the app but is attempting to appease media outlets by simply displaying the stories as they appear on the web, without being cleaned up.
Davar hopes Zite can work together with media companies to find a “win-win” solution that maintains a sleek reading experience while still generating revenue for those businesses.
Part of the appeal for publishers is that Zite helps readers discover content that they would not have otherwise found themselves, he added.
“What Zite is really about first and foremost is giving me that piece of content that I'll be interested in and that's what makes it so special. And that doesn't go away regardless of how we present it,” Davar said.
“The real exciting part about this opportunity is people are becoming readers again, they're loving content again, they're loving browsing the web again.
“We don't want to spoil that opportunity, it's a big opportunity for us and it's a big opportunity for publishers too, to get people back to their content and provide them discovery of their content.”