The iPad and iPad mini are excellent news-reading platforms, thanks to well-designed apps like Google Currents and the Editors’ Choice Award-winning Flipboard. The former displays RSS content in a simple, magazine-like layout; the latter does the same, but also culls links from Twitter, Facebook, and other sources. Zite offers a different spin on the formula: auto-curated personalized reading. Zite feeds you content based on what’s hot in your social networks, articles you’ve read, and how you’ve rated them. Zite works surprisingly well, and sports a very wallet-friendly price (free!), making it a news app that every iPad owner should download and sample at least once, despite the occasional glitch.
When you first fire Zite up, it presents you a handful of categories (Technology, 2014 Winter Olympics, Music News, and more) that act as starting points, plus a trio of boxes that let you sign into Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Unlike Flipboard, which simply displays your RSS feeds and social media links in a magazine-like layout, Zite analyzes your linked social networks and the feeds you select to dig up related articles from multiple sources.
You don’t simply follow the sources in your feeds as you would so with Flipboard; Zite uses them as springboards for fetching articles with similar subject matter. It serves, in this way, as a discovery tool that lets users find cool websites that they never knew existed.
The Zite Experience
I began my Zite reading experience in “Your Top Stories,” a section that displays relevant content based on the categories that I’d selected. Zite not only served up gaming, tech, and political content based on my picks, but also a smattering of headline news and popular stories, too (both can be activated/deactivated within the settings section). I liked that Zite presented a few important and trending stories in dedicated sections as it allowed me to stay on top of the news without dramatically altering my feed’s content.
Zite, like most iPad newsreader apps, displays content in reverse chronological order. That is, of course, an effective way to display pages, but I prefer Flipboard’s presentation. Flipboard’s Cover Stories, the section that pulls your article feeds into one multi-topic digital magazine, has undergone changes designed to improve its usability. Instead of simply displaying articles in reverse chronological order, Cover Stories now groups stories by source, topic, and social network—it makes finding and reading items of interest much simpler.
Zite’s layout is simple, but highly attractive. Like Flipboard, Zite combines images and text combination mimics a newspaper or print magazine’s layout. Navigation is breeze; you swipe from right to left to turn pages. Unlike Flipboard, on Zite each article has a tappable category tag that lets you explore additional related content. Also unlike Flipboard, Zite doesn’t display when a story was published or the amount of “Likes,” it’s gotten, but that’s to the app’s benefit. It makes the content box less cluttered.
Zite’s pages feature a vertically aligned, expandable menu bar that let me further personalize my reading experience by giving stories a thumbs up or thumbs down vote. I gave a Slate Magazine story a thumbs-up, so Zite would deliver similar content in the future. There are sharing options that let you post pieces to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and other services.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the articles Zite served up, but I noticed that some stories didn’t open within Zite’s page, but in their own pages. Zite states that a small number of websites are designed in a way that doesn’t allow them to be formatted as all the other stories are. The results are readable, but it definitely jars you out of the Zite experience.
It was the completely unrelated articles that I encountered, however, that represented the greater misstep by Zite. Self-help articles somehow found their way into my gaming, tech, and politics section on multiple occasions. Fortunately, down-voting the out-of-place pieces prevented similar articles from appearing in the future.
Zite, a news-reading app that I enjoy immensely as it pushes new sites to me that I might not have ever discovered on my own initiative. Flipboard, on the other hand, doesn’t quite have that level of discovery. Unrelated content issues keep Zite from overtaking Flipboard, our Editors’ Choice pick, but it’s a fine app that tablet readers should download.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc