Meet Kinzen

Another world is possible beyond Facebook and Google

tl;dr - a tool called Kinzen pivoted from a Spotify model to one in which it’s directly trying supporting publishers to build more personal relationships with readers. I like it, and it could be a positive development in the media world.

Aggregation is a concept that is central to the digital age as we know it. And while we’ve probably all benefited from it as users, it’s also the thing that’s causing economic concern for those on the supply side of the economy. From content creators (impacted by aggregation systems like social media platforms and search engines), to hotels (hurt by Airbnb), the ‘platform revolution’ gives users a wealth of options while making life much harder for suppliers.

However, I read an article on Nieman Lab today that suggests there could be an alternative to the form of aggregation that’s favoured by today’s highly extractive form of platform capitalism.

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Meet Kinzen

Kinzen began life following the typical model of a digital platform. Its creators wanted to be a “spotify for news” - a content aggregator that would allow users to sift through content from a massive range of sources and find what they want.

However, the creators - Mark Little and Áine Kerr - came to realize that this approach was wrong.

“News publishers should not be giving away their content to third-party platforms, or relying on social platforms,” Little told Nieman Lab. “They should develop these personalized and curated experiences themselves.”

This realization led the team down a new path. Instead of trying to aggregate content, they instead set out to help publishers build better relationships with readers through a newsletter personalization tool.

This is particularly interesting to me as it suggests there could be a way to get beyond the powerful aggregators that dominate our lives. The beauty of Kinzen, in theory at least, is that it respects the needs of publishers to fund content, while also responding to users need to control and curate their own consumption.

Nieman Lab points out that Kinzen isn’t alone. Big players like the New York Times are building their own personalization systems. Yes, that means there’s competition, but it also suggests Kinzen are on the right track. This trend is real and it probably won’t be going away.

What’s driving this trend?

What’s driving this trend is a little less clear. To me, it’s probably coming from both publishers and consumers.

On the one hand publishers are looking to monetize through direct subscription relationships rather than volatile ad models, while consumers, tired of noisy social media platforms with all the charm and calm of a dingy nightclub, and increasingly concerned about the privacy of their data, are looking to build more secure - maybe even more meaningful relationships with brands (although, yes, that phrase makes me want to curl up and die).

So, good luck Kinzen. Readers and publishers deserve better - they’re depending on you.