Unlike typical news apps that are more headline and text focused, Zig's feeds emphasize photo and video -- a nod to the popularity of Instagram and the surge of video content online. News items consist of photos or .gifs captioned with a headline; users can swipe left or right to continue viewing the visual content associated with the story, or they can tap the screen to read any text associated with it. "We distill every piece of content into a photo or video," says Platzner. Adds James: "We're taking the clip moving it forward."
Zig's visuals-first model appealed to Carter, who recently ended his 25-year run at the helm of Vanity Fair, a magazine that paired lush photography with deeply-reported journalism. "I think it has enormous potential for growth, not just nationally, but globally," Carter says. "Particularly for millennials, who prefer their news and information delivered visually rather than textually. The user who can have a visual search engine to catch up on film stars or music artists here, will be no different from the European or Indian user who wants to follow his or her music or soccer heroes there."
Jones agrees, telling Billboard, "I've witnessed the many changes that information delivery has undergone over the course of my 84 years of life, and [Zig] is without a doubt one of the most unique methods of content consumption that I have ever seen."
Although Zig is not geared for readers of The Economist or Foreign Policy magazine, it takes the approach that celebrities aren't just products of the entertainment industries. For instance, on Feb. 1, Zig users whose social media feeds are attuned to news about President Trump found Vogue.com's piece on White House communications director Hope Hicks coming under the scrutiny of special prosecutor Robert Mueller in their feeds. "One of the things that Graydon opened our eyes to, because he's always known this, is that politics is pop culture," says James. "And even beyond that, the personalities that lead business and tech are celebrities in a way that they really weren’t before."
A spokeswoman for Live Nation declined to comment on the company's investment in Zig, but James points out that "musicians are a huge, huge part of our app." Among the data that Zig's co-founders are able to mine is fan engagement, which could prove valuable to the live-event giant. "The raw number of people who follow you on social media is a little bit less interesting than the engagement number," says James. "You could have 80 million followers and barely anybody’s paying attention, or you could have 5 million followers and actually have more people paying attention to what you’re doing." He cited Pearl Jam as an act that "has a massively engaged audience, despite having a smaller social media audience than the pop stars topping the Billboard Hot 100 charts today."
That said, the artists on Zig who currently command the most engaged fans are "not terribly shocking": No. 1, Taylor Swift; No. 2, Selena Gomez; No. 3, Beyoncé; No. 4, Justin Bieber and, perhaps, the most surprising No. 5, Jennifer Lopez. That, James explains, is because Zig's engagement levels "are not based on playlists and streams, but on the content that's been generated on Lopez over the last few weeks," due to her relationship with former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
The app also includes a patent-pending interactive component, called "Zig React," that enables users to press on any post in the Zig stream and create a reaction photo or giphy that they can post with the story to their social media streams. "When you share it, your reaction becomes part of the content," says James, who notes that an upcoming update will offer photo filters and even the ability to react with text. "We think it's a win-win for everybody," he says, "because the user gets to have a fun reaction, the post links back to the original publisher of the content, and we get a piece of advertising that says, 'Zig.'"