New Mobile Platform ZIG Delivers Customized Content

Graydon Carter, former editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, has invested in a new visual-focused mobile aggregation platform called ZIG, which launched Monday in iOS.

It will be available on Android and the mobile web soon.

ZIG collects pieces of content from big and mid-sized publishers — such as videos, photos and articles — and pulls the most important photos and news bites and packages it back to users in a feed on the app.

But cofounder Joshua James told Publishers Daily, “We don’t use the 'a' word here,” referring to the word “aggregate. We don’t think that’s what ZIG does. Users consume an article by sliding with their finger, and consume main parts that they care about through photos or video,” he said.

ZIG, also cofounded by Adam Platzner and John Tornow, lets users connect their Facebook or Twitter accounts to ZIG, letting them see what users already follow on other social platforms in order to tailor their ZIG feeds.

The idea is to simplify users’ consumption of news with a personalized content stream. “Every time you use the app we are trying to educate ourselves on what you like what you don’t like — what you skip, what you zoom on, did you send it to a friend,” James said.

The feed is a stream of photos and videos created from online stories, tailored to a user’s topic and people interests. Links, headlines and text are removed from the original article and packaged into a series of photos, with caption-like blurbs.

Users can swipe through the feed, click on a photo and headline that interests them, and swipe through a selection of photos from the original article. A link can take users to read the full article on the publisher's site. There is no need to toggle between sites and apps to find specific news.

Users can “consume so much more content in our app than in other classic publishing platforms,” James said. “The current publishing model is a poor user experience. It’s really built on ad clicks and page views, not usability. That’s the model publishers have been forced to go with.”

James, who has founded a number of start-ups, including a digital start-up that was sold to Warner Music Group, said ZIG is “a consumption model, not an ad-click model.” Going forward, the cofounders see opportunities for ad inventory throughout the app. But for now, Platzner says “our priority is the product.”

“Advertising is going to be our main revenue stream. Down the line, we want to monetize this feed in a way that is not intrusive,” he said.

The team at ZIG has met with various media companies, which have responded well to the app,. ZIG helps drive more traffic to publishers, James said. A large portion of the platform’s initial users are clicking through to read the original article on publishers’ owned-and-operated sites.

A social feature likely to appeal to ZIG's younger demo allows users to superimpose a photo of their face giving a reaction to a piece of content. Called ZIG React (patent pending), the feature encourages users to engage with a publisher's content in a new way, and that image can be shared across social platforms, email and text.

The shared piece of content links back to the original article, too. Additions to the feature will roll out soon, the cofounders said.

ZIG is Carter’s first public project since retiring from Conde Nast’s Vanity Fair last fall, after 25 years at the helm. Platzner, who has worked at big publishers, like Conde Nast and Mansueto Ventures, met Carter at a Vanity Fair summit last year.

“Personally, I’ve admired him since I was in high school," he added, calling Carter "a mentor to us." Other early investors include music producer Quincy Jones, vice chariman of NBC Universal Hollywood mogul Ron Meyer, Vivi Nevo and Live Nation.  

The ZIG co-founders would not disclose funding amounts.

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