Cool PR Tool: Zeen Bursts Onto Curation Scene

by PR Coach on August 21, 2012

Zeen magazine publishing app

Zeen is an impressive new curation tool

Thinking about curating a topic? Wish you could publish your theme in a magazine that looks great without design or technology issues? I may have the solution for you.

It’s called Zeen. It’s a magazine discovery and creation platform that’s brand new and now in beta testing. At first glance, it’s an attractive tool for curators, content producers and PR pros.

I expect to see some very creative applications for this content tool as it gets discovered. My thanks to curation guru Robin Good for the tip.

With the proliferation of curation tools, it’s getting harder to differentiate between them and choose the best one. That’s why I was so pleased to come across Zeen.

My own content and curation efforts include the blog you’re reading (The PR Coach), my Twitter stream, Scoop.it topic –Public Relations & Social PR Insight and some experimenting with repurposing content to Tumblr and Twylah.

Scoop.it produces an attractive, searchable running list of articles and content with a magazine-like feel. It’s also a dynamite search engine. So far, it’s the best of the curation bunch in my opinion.

Paper.li, another popular tool, automatically pulls content to create your newspaper from your Twitter list. The final product looks good and has some useful features and advantages. But the auto-curation is still a big issue in my view.

Public Relations & Social PR POV

Zeen created from scratch in 45 mins

By contrast, Zeen lets you create, curate, design and publish your own impressive magazine online. With your own or curated content. All produced in a first-class design that’s intuitive and easy-to-use with some customization possibilities.

Elegant Magazines Simply: How Zeen Works

Once you have your invite, creating your magazine is as easy as 1-2-3. Zeen walks you through templates to pick your style, color scheme, cover image and page layout.

Set your format and you’re ready to create your first issue. Creating magazine pages is easy. Just use the Zeen search engine to find content or install the bookmarklet to pick and save content as you browse the internet.

Page creation is a snap

Create each new page by choosing from six page layout options. Once you’ve clicked to create content on your chosen pages, a table of contents is automatically created. You can easily rearrange the order of articles before publishing.

The handy bookmarklet lets you pull content instantly as you browse the web. You can import content from blogs, news, web pages, video, images and most other content. Zeen inserts a headline, visual, link and some content similar to Scoop.it, Pinterest, Instagram, Storify and many other curation apps.

Integrating one of your social media streams (initially Twitter, Instagram & Facebook) allows you to generate content as well.

Each page of content will be 150 to 350 words depending on the layout and size of photo you choose. The only disadvantage is you can’t choose the exact content or the images imported.

You can edit or add more content before publishing it. The magazine is built on the premise that readers will be intrigued enough after reading your one page to link to the source article. That also accommodates copyright issues.

Once you’re happy with your layout and content, it’s one-click to publish. You can direct future readers to your unique url. Even after publishing, editing is still possible. After publication, your magazine will be findable on Zeen.com and presumably through other search engines over time.

You can also just write your own content and publish though that’s not its strength, especially for monetization and SEO. To me, it makes more sense to republish or source content from your blog or elsewhere for greatest exposure and benefit.

Because I’m curating elsewhere, I decided to produce my first Zeen issue as a collection of my favorite PR Coach posts in 2012 (so far). You can see it here. Is that cool or what?

Zeen -impressive PR 2.0 tool

Zeen table of contents

It took maybe 45 minutes to get familiar with Zeen’s options, create this first zine issue and import content from my favorite 12 blog posts of 2012. Another click and it’s published online.

Depending on your approach, if you have content archived or saved on Zeen already, you could publish a magazine in 10 to 15 minutes.

In the future, Zeen will be a useful place for discovery – to look for interesting content. Visitors/readers can subscribe to magazines, search for other interesting titles or in the future create their own great-looking publications.

Here’s a selection of just a few Zeens that caught my eye:

  • Bikes Around the World - all about bikes
  • Samsung Magazine – a fan-zine but you can see the marketing potential
  • Sexy BBQ Recipes – already published six tasty issues
  • Bridges – just pictures of bridges drawn from a variety of sources
  • Pussy Riot Verdict – Russian punk band and politics.

Because Zeen is in beta test, some of the first zines are test mags or concepts while people figure out what its potential is.

Here’s a snapshot of what I liked and what I found was lacking with this app.

Pros:

  • Simple and intuitive setup and configuration
  • Superb design
  • Creation, editing, saving and changes are dead easy
  • Integrated search tool makes sourcing content fast
  • Bookmarklet pulls content in any format (news, video, images,tweets) instantly on demand as you browse
  • Connect your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts
  • Free (so far).

Cons:

Zeen is brilliantly designed but it has a few minor annoyances:

  • Design customization limited to format provided
  • Text formatting not possible
  • Fits source content into one page, cutting it abruptly at bottom but allows you to edit and finish the thought or paragraph or add more content
  • Links back to source content from a link inserted at top of page similar to other curation tools. Some may not see or miss the link and wonder why your article ends mid-thought.
  • Auto-save takes just a moment but pause before you click and move on after editing so your content changes are saved
  • Over time a similarity in appearance will diminish its uniqueness unless dozens of new templates are added.

Overall, I like the tool a lot despite its limitations. Visually, it’s one of the most attractive apps of its kind yet.

So what are you waiting for? Subscribe to my new Zeen magazine Public Relations and Social PR POV. Apologies for the lack luster title. More creativity ahead when time allows. I thought it was more important to get you this early look at this interesting tool first.

Zeen looks like a great addition to the curation toolbox. The best thing to do is to get yourself an invite and start your creative engines. Devise a strategy for your magazine. The possibilities are endless from one-off publications, regular editorial, and product news to curation, marketing, PR, leadership and reputation possibilities.

Time will tell whether Zeen will develop into a fully featured, money-making proposition. Or whether it will be just another interesting curation tool abandoned on the road to the next shiny new thing in the future.

Zeen is one of four initial companies under the umbrella of AVOS Systems, Inc.  YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen lead AVOS. They are also re-creating Delicious, another of their four companies. It’s also got significant venture cap funding from heavyweight angel investors including New Enterprise Associates, Google Ventures, Madrone Capital, and Innovation Works.

Hope you liked this look at Zeen. In the future, we’ll take a look at more promising new social PR tools and their potential. But of course you’ll have to subscribe to this blog to bask in that intelligence. Don’t be shy!

Are you using curation in one of its many forms in your PR programs? Is curation working for you? What do you think about Zeen? Your comments and ideas are welcome below. After all, this is a very social place.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: AVOS, The PR Coach