An open platform for collaborative, iterative and sustainable media: that's how we have defined Kinja. But collaboration between whom? Realizing our vision requires an undivided focus on the needs of our core users. And first we need to identify them clearly. So here goes.
Our primary target is the independent blogger, the archetype of the modern media curator — represented in our own company by Foxtrot Alpha and Paleofuture, for instance, and outside by independents such as Maria Popova or John Gruber. For the archetype, look back to the Elizabeth Spiers and Pete Rojas of 12 years ago — who made their own careers and left us with Gawker and Gizmodo, the support pillars for this business. We are building the platform we needed then!
The independent blogger represents the new user, getting into the rhythm of posts and discussions — with at least the possibility in mind that this might turn into a living, or a business.
Our belief is that an independent media sector can flourish — and the independent thought that we as a company put above all other values — only if the barriers to entry are lowered.
Our business plan is to define a simplified media ecosystem in software: taking the friction out of the essential interactions between blogger, commenter, reader and advertiser; and lowering the barriers to entry for blogging businesses.
It is as a platform for bloggers — a profession we helped define — that we have greatest credibility. And the blogger is the character we at Gawker Media know best, because it represents our founders.
Our secondary target is the collaborative commenter, a contributor of tips, opinion, background information, eyewitness accounts or fact-checking — something that moves forward the story or discussion and is recognized by the blogger.
In 2012, at the outset of this Kinja project, we diagnosed the internet's condition as a tragedy of the comments, the inevitable decay of a public space without appropriate rules governing rights and responsibilities. We are trying to create the conditions for collaboration — and first of all the most basic form of that, the conditions for intelligent discussion.
Here's the hypothesis. It is only when commenters become collaborators that a blogger's work can be truly spontaneous and interactive, taking full advantage of the medium.
The independent blogger needs the encouragement of a community of commenters and tipsters, and a supportive but stimulating environment for story development.
The challenge for Kinja is intimacy at scale. The intimacy of a conversation gives a blogger inspiration and confidence — but only public promotion and scale can satisfy their egos and financial needs. For true independence, a blogger needs the scale at least of a viable media site.
Which brings us to the third target, the reader. The readership is the pool from which most new commenters emerge and an essential component of any media ecosystem. A reader's attention is the primary currency of public media, our field.
Kinja aims to match story with reader, optimize cross-promotion, and encourage discovery through marginal annotations, notifications and a reader's personal feeds. By so doing, the platform can accelerate a blogger's audience growth, reduce the cost, embarrassment and inconvenience of self-promotion — and bring viability closer.
In summary, Kinja is an integrated system to simplify and streamline the interactions of bloggers, commenters and readers.
These three groups — bloggers and commenters revolving tightly around each other, and readers in more distant orbit — are the essential players. In their basic interactions, they represent the minimum viable ecosystem, that we aim to model in software.
A fourth target, the advertiser, is critical to the revenue model of the blogger and this platform itself. But first we must show that an independent blogger can develop a community and an audience within the Kinja platform. That's the priority for 2015.
This outline was introduced at the Gawker Media tech department's September 2014 all-hands meeting. Questions and points are welcome, but staff from the department will be answered first.