Rumors of Zite’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Responding to Cease & Desist Letters

Yesterday, we were served a cease and desist notice by a consortium of large media companies (initially reported by Kara Swisher). Since then the issue has become a hot topic on many other outlets, and we should provide our perspective.

Before I begin, we want to say thanks to the outpouring of support from our users. Now, I’d like to give you some insight into how Zite works with content:

  • Zite’s content comes from a web crawl, the same way content is aggregated in the indexes of search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Zite displays articles in reading mode, which changes how the page is rendered. Though we understand this can alter the layout and potentially eliminate ads, we made this design decision in order to give users a better reading experience. Reading mode is already common, e.g. Safari’s Reader.
  • We respect the decision of publishers who either use the noarchive metatag or explicitly tell us they want their content displayed in web mode – in either case, we render articles without reformatting.

We don’t look at this as an adversarial situation. If the formal cease and desist we received from the big publishing companies yesterday was a one line email from the world’s smallest blogger, we would treat it exactly the same: we would switch the content from reading mode to web view mode. That’s it. This is not our legal position, it’s just our policy. Zite is eager to work with publishers in a way that benefits everyone – most importantly end users.

We are already talking to some big publishers about doing just that. We’d love to hear from publishers directly about how we can work together and meet their needs at publishers@zite.com. Also, we’d love to hear what you think, whether you’re a user, a publisher, or an industry observer – please leave your comments below.

Ali Davar, CEO

Update: great commentary from GigaOm.

29 comments

  1. I love how Zite aggregates the articles, makes it easier and better to read. But I understand if some sites want people to see the ads. I think your decision to allow the site to choose is good.

  2. I love your app! Your reader format is top notch and much preferable to the web format. Hopefully publishers will come around. I'm a fan!

  3. Zite makes me look smart. I love reading blogs but hate finding them. I represent the user who probably would miss most of these very interesting pieces without Zite. Good Luck, my fingers are crossed for you!

  4. Our website publishes in-house headlines and mini-summaries linking to sites hosting news items published by a variety of organizations : newspapers, periodicals, NGOs, etc, all having to do with environmental issues. The headlines that we put out always date and clearly identify the source of the news item. We have been served a cease and desist order by a newspaper whose news item was referred to by a third party who omitted the newspaper's name and substituted ours as having been the source. Informal discussions with mainstream journalists (print and/or web) in Montreal reveal a definite sense of unease and distrust at having their story "webicised". It may have a lot to do with journalists' remuneration.

  5. I agree with Emily. Thanks to Zite, I am reading new blogs and love the way it is presented in Zite. I'm a ravenous fan of Zite. Don't change a thing!

  6. Reading mode greatly reserved low level bandwidth users like myself (500 MB a month) from wasting it on seeing anything but text. Unfortunately having to load a page in it's fullest form will mean I will have less reason to use Zite even though it's a great way to find news outside of what I normally read but if the majority of content I enjoy is pushed to web reading only – I would stick with Reeder and Readability.

  7. i think the end user should also be given the choice on whether to view the content on the web (and see the web ads) or on zite's reading format (and be spared of these ads). publishers should get more creative to attract readers and make them choose to view the web format, i.e., make the web view more appealing, instead of taking it out on zite.

  8. I caught on to Zite from the very week it was released. It is an amazing app – better than Flipboard, Pulse, Flud or others. Publishers should be happy that Zite is bringing more eyeballs to their content. Let's face it, they need all the help they can get. They should stop whining.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. the media guys are acting like the music companies.. rather than delight users with options and harvest the long tail they want to preserve their franchise….i applaud you're approach… continue please.. it's time for big media to delight the end user and adapt.. or to decline….

  11. Zite has become the first app I launch in the morning and my favourite reading app along with Flipboard and Reeder.The UI fits in perfectly with my needs and my brain structure. I am reading (and discovering) so much more thanks in great part to its clear and readable user interface. The typography is very good and the sharing options just right.Number of other apps have run into the same problem. We are facing a business model crash that needs to be addressed not be the end users but by the content publishers themselves. Find a new way of delivering content in a sustainable and readable way (inline text based ads?) I don't know. But clearly, end users are showing them in what form they want to consume their content.I love you app. Thanks for everything.

  12. Love the app. Don't kill us readers please with your greed(publishers).

  13. Thank you for this App. I work for a digital media company and I always thought it was sooo easy to create a digital magazine…and they are making bank…anyway… I love how it is customized per reader…. Brilliant!

  14. If only those publishers would realize how much we hate the busy sites and mondo ads. All we want to do is read the article in a concise manner. Sometimes these guys have so many ads and other web junk that I won't go back to the site. Zite is the cleanser for the web removing search clutter and moldy ads.

  15. PMM

    I don't understand… these sites are saying they don't want the exposure, the traffic, the increase in viewers? When you read an article that is really good, if you are like me you visit the site and possibly make it one of your regulars. I'm seeing sites via Zite that I would never have found and subsequently would never have visited directly after reading the article via Zite.

  16. I've been using ZITE since it was first released, and much like the comments above, it's exposed me to new information sources I wouldn't actively seek out. That aspect of surprise definitely enhances user experience because it provides a new source I can mentally bookmark for later. I'm also a HUGE fan of the "reading view"… most sites are too cluttered with ads or I have to zoom to adjust text to an optimal size (not something I want to do every time I come across a new article). I should add that I'm not very happy to find more article that only appear in web view. These media companies need to start focusing on pleasing their users as an end goal rather than their continuing mindset of "how can I make money off this." Please your customers and you will be rewarded. Keep doing what you're doing ZITE!

  17. I have to disagree with many of the comments here so far. I love the Zite app and use it every day – but there needs to be a middle ground. Consumers want (mostly free) and available content in an attractive package. Media companies simply want to be able to sustain their operations through ad or subscription revenues.The solution is for both developers and media to work to develop a system that allows both goals to be met. I suggest a few alternatives that require some new tech, but also a shift in the way major media does business:http://journ.us/fIzRL3

  18. Here's the REAL reason Zite is being attacked and not say Flipboard: Flipboard is founded by Mike McCue, a director of Twitter. Just two clicks in Wikipedia uncovered this. Zite on the other hand – I can't find who owns it – is a small independent, with probably little to no affiliations. So it's easy to threaten and attack. No one wants to make enemies with a Twitter.Zite does the same thing as other apps. So if one is "illegal," they all are.In the end Zite will have to make some sort of alliances, and then it will be allowed to continue. Sadly, it'll probably have to make some concession that will take away from how awesome the tech is. Companies and people say they are all for innovation. But the truth they are only for innovation that gets them a slice of the pie ($$).

  19. tjj

    Not to worry anything I click on that takes me to a web site I immediately click a finger down. So web sites that I MAY have gone to independently will not see me nor get any revenue. I hope they are happy with this business model!

  20. The user should be able to choose which view mode he/she wants. Just like on my computer I can use an ad-blocker or extensions that make reading easier. So if you switch something automatically to webmode, the user should have the possibility to disable that. This would be a conscious action taken by the user and the publishers have nothing to complaint about. If too much stuff keeps appearing in webmode then the application will loose it's appeal.

  21. I love ZITE! I look forward to reading it everyday. I would not change a single thing! I have learned so many new things since it has launched. I think you are doing a fabulous job! Keep it up!

  22. Just to echo what has been said…I love the Zite and love the layout…I understand where publishers are coming from, if they can't generate revenue from ads and pageviews then that's bad for their business model…I would have no problem with seeing Zite including a collapsable tab that includes all the ads maybe in a clever and visually appealing way–something that says "this content made possible by X" would not be terribly offputting…Regardless it would be nice to include a feature that allows the user to omit webview articles

  23. Your blog looks nice, even so it would be far better if you’ll be able to use lighter colors too as a professional design. This will make sure that a lot more readers come to check it out.Informative post by the way!online pharmacy

  24. I would love to see this as a stand alone app on a MacOs so you could read at your computer and on the ipad. Keep up the good work, I use this app daily.

  25. I love Zite! I've been telling everyone I know with an iPad all about it. I honestly don't like the articles in web format. I don't have any problem with the display ads; it's more the formatting that makes the articles harder to read and I don't like flipping screens. I skim a lot of articles and it's annoying to have to flip screens.

  26. I have nothing to say but asking you to keep doing your great work! To Zite's VCs: it's a big thing! ;)

  27. Really enjoying Zite as a companion (not replacement) to my Google Reader fed RSS app (Feeddler). Curious what's next for Zite, it's been awfully quite around here lately.

  28. What about a 1 penny per article fee for using the Reader feature with no ads?

  29. Zite was a killer app for me. That's what made me buy an iPad in the first place. What you're going through is nothing but transitional. In a year or two everyone else will catch up with your model and there won't be possible to stop it. Publishers will try to actually find ways to work with you guys instead of stalking you. You still have the most elegant way of doing what you do though, so don't worry.

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