Zite Has A New CEO — And A Response To Cease & Desist Demands

A shuffle at Zite as the startup regroups following publishers’ negative reactions to its personalized magazine iPad app. Advisor Mark Johnson, a veteran of numerous startups who was most recently at Bing, steps in as CEO, while founder Ali Davar moves to president. At the same time, the company released a new version of the app designed as a response to the cease and desist letter from the Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO), AP, Dow Jones (NSDQ: NWS), Gannett (NYSE: GCI) and others.

From the company’s blog post:

Many of the features in this release are in direct response to the Cease & Desist we received a few weeks ago. In complying with the C&D, more content needs to be served in web mode, so it’s important to us to improve the user experience for articles rendered in that view.

Johnson, who advised the company’s switch from Worio to Zite last year, explains on his own blog that the move to CEO for him started about four months ago at Davar’s request. Where does Zite go next?

The only way to solve information overload is to turn browsing on its head and to learn what you want and deliver more of it to you, without losing an element of serendipity.

I liken where Zite is to the early days of search: everyone loved search engines because they allowed us to sift through the rapidly growing web, even though most searches ended up in failure. Similarly, Zite’s personalization isn’t perfect, but we’ve made a breakthrough advance. Our challenge over the next few years will be to improve significantly the quality of our recommendations; maintaining a sleek, user-friendly interface; give publishers new opportunities for revenue so that they continue to create amazing content.

Zite immediately started to win some fans with the way it personalizes reading options based on use and for a clean interface. But that clean look came at the expense of publishers’s ads, which disappeared from the Zite version. Will the changes in the new version appease anyone? We’ll see.