The Team

Who created Kinzen?

Kinzen was founded by Áine Kerr, Mark Little and Paul Watson. They first worked together at Storyful, which Mark founded.

Storyful was the first social media news agency, curating the most valuable user-generated content on the social web. Storyful was an early pioneer in the battle against misinformation.

Áine went on to become the Global Head of Journalism Partnerships for Facebook, based in New York. Mark went on to work with Twitter, as a Vice President of Media Partnerships, and Managing Director of Twitter’s international headquarters in Dublin.

Together with Paul, Áine and Mark founded NevaLabs in October 2017. The company was renamed Kinzen in October 2018. Mark is Kinzen’s CEO, Áine is the company’s COO and Paul is the CTO.

Tell us about the rest of the Kinzen team?

Our Product Manager (and Head of Design and Research) is Eilis Boyle. The editorial side of the house is led by another Storyful veteran Shane Creevy, who is our Community Editor. Andrew McDowell is our Machine Learning Engineer. Rú Hickson is our Data Engineer. Hannah Lennon is our User-Experience Researcher. Ian Goode is our UI Designer and Mohammed Ali is our Mobile Developer.

Kinzen is also building a publisher version of our user experience (a project funded by the Google Digital News Initiative). Alex Cabrera and Eamonn Dunne are working together on this initiative, which we hope to launch in spring of 2019.

Kinzen’s scientific adviser is Barry Smyth, Director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at UCD

Who is funding Kinzen?

Kinzen has been funded by a small group of private investors from Ireland (including founder Mark Little), an investment from the Civil Media Company (a decentralised network of independent newsrooms) and Enterprise Ireland, the Irish state-funded innovation agency. Kinzen has received a grant from the Google-backed Digital News Initiative to build a publisher solution.

Where are you based?

In Dublin, Ireland. But we have team members working remotely in Madrid, Cape Town and Miami.

The Mission

What is Kinzen is trying to achieve?

Our mission is to give you control of a daily news routine that sharpens your focus and broadens your mind.

How are you different to the big technology platforms?

Our recommendation systems are controlled by the conscious choices and feedback of our members. We do not harvest their browsing histories. We do not trap them in the echo chambers of their social networks.

Kinzen is not funded by advertising revenue. Instead, we rely on direct support from our members, and a share of the extra revenue we can generate for publishers. Kinzen's job is to connect active news seekers of the world with the sources of news and information that reward their trust and attention.

We want to make it easy for citizens to support quality journalism, and develop deeper engagement with the publishers they value most, particularly member-supported and community-based publishers.

Kinzen will collaborate with its members to evaluate the credibility and quality of the sources accessed within its systems. We will develop tools and rewards for Kinzen members who curate most value for the wider community.

The App

How is Kinzen different to other personalised news apps?

In the same way health and fitness apps help you achieve important goals, Kinzen helps you overcome information overload through a productive daily news routine that you control.

Kinzen does not track your browser history to keep you addicted to the same sources and opinions. We don’t rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking. We offer an empowering personal news routine based on the best intentions of members rather than empty clicks, likes or hearts.

Unlike social networks, we take great care in what sources we host. The directory of sources in the app is built and improved through partnership between active Kinzen members and our Community Editor. Unlike other news aggregators, we help you discover more than the usual sources. We prize diverse and independent publishers that serve communities of all shapes and sizes and locations.

We do not rely on advertising. In the Kinzen app, we do recommend publisher content that contains advertising, but take no cut from the revenue. Instead, we are actively working with publishers big and small to develop revenue models based on direct support from members.

How do you rank and recommend stories I see in Kinzen?

Kinzen members control the key filters and goals that improve their experience. They choose the topics and sources they want to see. They discover new topics and sources from other members. They rank topics and sources. They create their daily routine. They continue to refine these settings as they improve their experience.

The power of machine learning kicks in as members offer feedback to the content they see in the app. Initially, this feedback is based on a set list of potential positive and negative responses. In time, we hope to move to a list of subjective words and phrases which reflect the individual member's desired outcomes from their news routine.

This is why we ask you to share "your thoughts". This purposeful feedback helps us improve the quality of our recommendation systems and make your experience more relevant and empowering.

Does anyone else see my responses?

Your thoughts are not shared with anyone else. They are added anonymously to the collective feedback of the community

When will you introduce an Android app?

We plan to launch an Android app within the first six months of 2019.

Your Data

What personal data do you collect when I use the app?

The only personally identifiable data we request from you is your email address. We use your email address to sign you into the app and to send you password reset emails. We do need to store channel names so we recommend you don’t type in anything personal. Your IP address does pass through our system but is not stored. Your selection of topics and sources in the app are linked to your email address to ensure you get relevant news.

Do you use any other personal data to improve your recommendations?

Right now we rely primarily on your explicit reactions to stories and your choice of topics and sources to improve your experience. In time, we will begin to analyse other signals, such as how long you are using the Kinzen app, what times of day you use it, etc. In particular, we will learn from what stories you read and how long you spend reading them.

Why would I trust you with my data?

Kinzen is fully compliant with GDPR. It is one of our core design principles to separate personal information from all other data. Where we require users of Kinzen to sign up and agree to cookie and personal data usage policies we will use and store only data required to provide the service to our users. We do not display personally identifiable data of non-users as we are not a social network. Our community consists solely of signed up users who have consented to our usage of their data.

The Sources

How do you decide what is a good source to host in the Kinzen app?

We have added more than 3,000 curated sources. They are both local and global, broad and niche, established and emerging.

The common denominator among the best sources is collaboration with communities, based on shared interests or location. Good sources have other common characteristics:

  1. Have a core competency and stick with it
  2. Promote deeper understanding of that specialist topic
  3. Reflect the authentic language of a community
  4. Are curious and open to correction
  5. Value original thinking

The Kinzen Community Editor has been working with a group of ‘First Members’ who joined our curator forum late last year. Together, they built a directory featuring thousands of sources. The work of this network has enabled a richer experience for anyone who consumes the app, and Kinzen is rewarding those who were active in this conversations with 6 months free access to all the premium features of the app.

What sources are excluded?

There will be sources that do not meet a basic threshold of credibility that will not be included in the app. These decisions will be taken initially by the Kinzen Community Editor on the basis of the following criteria judgements about the source:

  1. Hide their true affiliations in an attempt to deceive followers
  2. Systematically leverage automated networks on social platforms to subvert or hijack public conversations
  3. Derive commercial gain from knowingly spreading misinformation
  4. Spread hatred in all its forms, including racism, misogyny and homophobia
  5. Promote conspiracy theories in an effort to undermine scientific fact on issues of public health (e.g. public vaccination programmes) and environmental security (e.g. climate change)

But I see sources in the Kinzen which I consider unreliable or offensive?

We recognise that there are a small number of sources who require a more nuanced judgment about their place in Kinzen. For example, some sources may have a track record of inciting political controversy, spreading propaganda or occasionally passing on misinformation. Yet they may also observe a basic standard of journalism, be open to correction, be explicit about their affiliations and provide a valuable insight into a political trend or movement with which the member may seek to be exposed to.

In this small number of edge cases, Kinzen will include the source and leave it to members to make their own decision about whether to include or exclude from their personal news routine.

We are committed to developing full transparency about these sources, and developing more comprehensive source profiles to guide the member. We are exploring a tagging system, which automatically alerts the member to documented concerns about the credibility of a source. We will work with third-party fact-checking organisations and others building technical solutions. There is a lot of good work being done in this area and we are in a continual review as these organisations develop. We will also work to develop a moderator group within the Kinzen community to more effectively process and evaluate community feedback on sources. We will pay particular attention to feedback from Kinzen members at the article level, to build up a more comprehensive assessment of a source’s credibility.

The Community

What do you mean when you use the word community to describe Kinzen?

We use the word community to describe those who create value through their active use of the app, whether that is the creation and sharing of channels or suggesting sources.

What role does curation play in the Kinzen community?

Kinzen’s mission is to connect conscious citizens with sources who value their trust and reward their attention. We can only achieve this goal at scale by building a network of curators. Curation is in our founding DNA. Kinzen’s curator network will be the heart of the global community we want to build.

What do you mean by curator?

In the Kinzen community, a curator is an active member who suggests sources, creates specialist channels of sources and shares with other members. In the future, we envisage curators having more tools to engage with followers of their channels.

We define a curator as someone with a passion for finding the signal in the noise of our daily conversations. The curator is someone who adds value to their community by discovering new ideas, fresh voices and quality information.

What role does the Community Editor play?

The Community Editor, Shane Creevy, is the ultimate judge of what sources are included in the directory that powers the Kinzen app. Shane previously worked in Storyful - along with Kinzen’s three founders - for eight years. That environment was all about curating the world’s information flows with smart technology and rigorous journalistic scrutiny. We called it The Human Algorithm - finding the wisdom in the crowd. The blend of human expertise with the possibilities of technology excited us then, and excites us still. Collaboration has been a key feature of Shane’s work and he’ll be examining third party tools that may help us including Newsguard, Trust Metrics, First Draft, Poynter, Trust Project and the Journalism Trust Initiative, to name but a few.

How do I become a curator?

Join our Curator forum. We are inviting Curators to inform and lead conversations within the Kinzen Community. As a Kinzen Curator, you have an opportunity to host a conversation around a topic of your interest and to share with the Community your go-to sources for this topic. There is also the opportunity to curate a Channel related to your topic of interest and for this Channel to publicly appear within the app. By clicking on the following link you should be directed to the Kinzen Community Page. Here you will be asked to register as a Curator (if you have not already done so). https://join.kinzen.com

What are your plans for the curation network?

In stage one of the development of our network, the Community Editor will have ultimate control over the Kinzen directory of sources, and arbitrate the key challenges that arise within the curator forum. But as our community scales so too must leadership within the community. Our collective goal is to decentralise decision making to a registered network of curators. They will uphold and protect the evolving values of the network, and act in the best interests of all members of the Kinzen community. We envisage a sliding scale of authority and incentives which align with different levels of activity within our curator network.

The Business

How does Kinzen make money?

We make money through the fees that members pay to access the premium features of its mobile app. Kinzen does not make money from advertising. In addition to membership fees, Kinzen is developing products that will generate shared revenue with publisher and developer partners.

How are you going to help quality journalism?

Kinzen wants to connect the most active news seekers in the world to the sources who reward their trust and attention. We believe we can play a significant role in supporting quality journalism by helping publishers engage with individuals, based on a unique understanding of their personal needs and preferences.

What is Kinzen's relationship to traditional news publishers?

Kinzen can offer unique value to publishers who want to break their dependence on ad-funded social platforms and aggregators. Our job is to help these publishers develop deep personal engagement with news seekers willing to pay for quality journalism.

We can initially deliver value to publishers by linking users of the Kinzen app to their websites.

Our short-term goal is to help publishers connect with the right Kinzen user, and help them become subscribers to their premium content. We also seek to integrate the user's existing subscriptions into the Kinzen experience, without any loss of revenue to the publisher and with prime position in the user's feed.

Kinzen is also developing a publisher version of its unique form of purpose-driven personalisation. Kinzen will power personalised content feeds for premium publishers, including newsletters and audio briefings.

Why would I pay for an app that curates free content?

The value of the Kinzen app is in the power it gives its users to create a news routine uniquely aligned with their daily needs. The value is in the unique combination of filters, ranking, support, feedback and curation in the app. We believe Kinzen to be the most empowering personal experience of news available.

So this is a free app?

The app is free to download. You can access a limited range of channels and controls for free. To unlock all the premium features you will have to subscribe at a rate of $/€4.99 per month or $/€49.99 per year

Will I see advertising?

Kinzen does not make money from advertising. However, we link to news sites that do (that is why they are freely available). We are exploring partnerships that would allow our users to purchase ad-free experiences that support quality journalism.

The Kinzen app does not help me access journalism behind publisher paywalls. Will I be able to access paid content in the future?

Yes. That’s the plan. The first version of our app draws content from the open web, and we can’t get you beyond the occasional publisher paywall you will encounter. We are working toward a future in which you will be able to subscribe to premium journalism through our app, and access the premium journalism you already pay for.

The Future

What improvements can I expect from the Kinzen app?

Our team will be responding to feedback and building enhancements based on common needs of our members. In the immediate future we will release Insights, a unique feature that provides members with information on their consumption habits and which can help them set better goals to build a healthy and productive news routine.

We will also be working towards empowering a moderator group within the Kinzen experience, and a range of curator tools and incentives to help these moderators.

When will I be able to integrate my other news subscriptions into Kinzen?

The first version of our app draws content from the open web, and we can’t get you beyond the occasional publisher paywall you will encounter. We plan to offer the first subscription content in the app by June 2019.

So you only ever benefit people who can afford to pay for news?

No. In addition to offering a free experience of the Kinzen app, we plan to develop products and services that will have a wider public utility, particularly in relation to curation and personalisation. Where possible, we will develop open source protocols and data sets which will help sustain a wider ecosystem of developers, researchers and publishers.

I didn’t find an answer to my question here. What now?

If you can't find an answer to your question, please email info@kinzen.com and a member of the Kinzen team will respond as soon as possible.