Kinzen: Mark Little’s version of personalisation with a purpose

“How do you align your journalism with an individual and reward their attention? Not an audience collectively, but that individual. That is the moon landing we are all pursuing.”

by Dean Roper | October 29, 2018

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That is what Mark Little, the former founder of Storyful, ex-Twitter exec, ex-broadcast journalist, hopes his new startup’s news app will achieve when it launches in January.

The new startup, Kinzen, was co-founded by Little and his former Storyful colleagues Aine Kerr, who worked for Facebook afterward, and Paul Watson. Essentially, the app aims to offer such a personalised experience, allowing users to dictate their own news habits.

Little, who spoke at WAN-IFRA’s Newsroom Summit in Oslo earlier this week, says the app will aggregate articles users are interested in, not by “a creepy system of personalisation that defines so many other news apps and aggregators.” Rather, he says, Kinzen’s machine learning systems will be based on more community-based feedback and a purpose-driven ranking system.

To hone that system and experience, Kinzen is building up a community of users to test the app leading up to the launch in January. The ad-free news app will launch with a subscription offer of about €5.50. In the summer, Kinzen plans to offer a publisher solution as well.

Dmitry Shishkin@dmitryshishkin

Watch this space . I have been thinking for some time that @marklittlenews‘s (and @AineKerr‘s too!) @wearekinzen startup together with @arctictony‘s @tryscroll are the two most interesting things happening in digital content sector these days.

See Dmitry Shishkin’s other Tweets

We posed five questions to Mark during the Summit… here’s what he had to say.

How would you describe Kinzen in 280 characters or less?

Our mission is to put every individual in control of a daily news routine that respects their time, rewards their trust and broadens their minds.

What is Kinzen’s approach to personalisation versus that of what we are seeing today in other platforms?

Kinzen rejects the creepy system of personalization that defines so many other news experiences. We do not use your browsing history to keep you addicted to the same sources and opinions, or rank the importance of stories on the basis of what’s trending on social networks.

Instead, you get to build news channels aligned with your vital interests. Our machine learning systems respond to your conscious feedback to the articles you see in your chosen channels, moving you out of a world of hearts, claps and likes. We hope the data sets we develop can help set new standards for personalization within our ecosystem of publisher partners.

Elaborate on the idea of “bringing joy” back to news, in terms of rewarding readers?

One of the things we lost in the always-on world of the social news feed is the direct link between a daily news routine and a sense of agency in your life. Knowing you are fully informed about the stories that matter, at the moments that matter, delivers a real emotional charge. And then there is the joy of serendipity. Personalisation with a purpose means the constant expectation of moments of unexpected insight, and the thrill that comes with it.

Mick ter Reehorst@Micktr

Great to see @marklittlenews referencing Clay Shirky and the “Here Comes Everybody” idea. He turns it into “Here Comes Somebody” > turn it into deep personal connections instead of audience of scale.

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The app is for readers, but you will launch a publisher solution as well… how will that work and is it more attractive for local publishers?

Kinzen’s goal is to build deeper engagement between active news seekers and the publishers who reward their trust and attention. As well as offering publisher content within the Kinzen app, we can deliver the Kinzen user experience within a partner’s web and mobile properties. So, unlike other platforms and aggregators, Kinzen helps loyal readers curate their own personal news experience within their favourite publisher’s branded environment.

We think this is particularly aligned with the needs of local news publishers who don’t have either the range of content or technical resources to deliver a fully personalized experience to their users.

Our first version of the Kinzen publisher solution will be a personalised content feed tailor-made for the user’s daily commute. We hope to begin testing that product in the second quarter of 2019.

What would you say to publishers who might be feeling good about the recent surge in direct traffic as platforms’ traffic (for news) has declined?

I would be inspired but not complacent. The publishers who capitalize on these shifts will be those who focus on a radically enhanced user experience. A young generation of news seekers is looking for an experience that rewards them with control, which delivers multiple sources and helps them discover content aligned with their personal identities. That’s what I mean by ‘personalisation with a purpose’. That what I think will help publishers take advantage of the shift away from social platforms.

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