To Unlock the Best Ideas for the News Business, Learn From its Worst Fears

Fierce debate rages in our industry, in the trade and mainstream press, and on event stages around the world. I think we are in agreement — the news publishing eco-system is broken and a correction is long overdue.

The struggle is real. I know first hand as the business of publishing has been a passion of mine for almost 20 years. My background is in advertising, with both publishers and platforms. I’ve had a front row seat dealing with the friction in today’s digital advertising business while running a direct sales team, as well as working in partnership with publishers.

I’m encouraged and inspired by those publishers who are taking meaningful steps in diversifying their business model. Now, I want to make my contribution. That’s why I joined Kinzen.

We are a technology company building personalisation tools to help publishers and citizens take back control of the news. We want to give publishers the power to enhance their relationships with users on their own properties.

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I met the founding team at Kinzen eight months ago and was immediately struck by their mission and ambition. With backgrounds in journalism, experience inside-the-ropes of the platforms and previous start-up success, the knowledge, credibility and authenticity they bring is unique.

I’m fast approaching my 100th day here and during that time I’ve been on a listening tour. I’ve been meeting with publishers to talk about their business, gain insights on problems they need to solve and learn about their longer term ambitions.

Key Learnings

Publishers told me they are struggling to build loyalty and engagement with their users. “Content snacking” has led to less loyalty and time spent with publisher brands. They want to bring users into their own experience and create a habit and a friction-free user journey.

Diversifying revenue streams away from pure advertising is now the norm. Events can be successful but it’s a low margin business and drains resources. Publishers are seeking ways to bolster new, or augment existing, reader revenue or registration products. Strategies are varied from member clubs to private events, enhanced tools and functionality to collaborative subscription partnerships.

Publishers struggle with data. Either they lack meaningful data, or they’re not able to use it yet in a meaningful way. Publishers are also balancing maintaining user privacy while creating useful insights for both editorial and revenue.

As publishers re-tool and re-skill their organisations these shifts have left most teams overburdened. Teams have been built around serving the platforms, sometimes to the detriment of their own properties.

Publishers are unified in the need to rebuild trust with users. Readers are overloaded with news and information. The connection to quality journalism has been lost with the endless scroll of the social newsfeed. The user has come to expect personalised recommendations but wants to control what, where and how they consume content. They want to become more productive whilst being aware of their digital wellness.

Supporting Journalism

A correction is needed so publisher business models can support the creation of vital journalism. Holding governments, companies, and individuals accountable is vital for the health of democracy. We must continue to support journalists in their work to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives and their communities.

Kinzen is designing for these problems.

The feedback from my listening tour is directly shaping our product strategy and development. Over the coming months we’ll be piloting different products with publishers across email, audio, apps and websites. Our aim will be to deliver value to the publishers, help build user loyalty and engagement, drive subscriptions and/or registration.

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We are up for the challenge. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more: