I have some news today: I’ve left TechCrunch and joined The Ken, the subscription media startup based in India.
I’m more comfortable reporting the news than being the subject, but I do want to explain a little about why I am making this move. (You can read The Ken’s take here.)
TechCrunch is an incredible place to work. I spent close to five years there — if you’d told me that when I moved to Thailand in 2008, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t think there is another media company with a more optimal mix of editorial freedom and genuine international reach.
But, I’m ambitious and curious… and The Ken has always caught my eye. I wrote about the company soon after it launched in 2016 and, as often happens after interviews, we kept in touch. Every conversation since then had me engaged and left me thoughtful.
Less can be more
The Ken has pioneered a ‘one story per day’ approach that, perhaps quirky at first, makes a lot of sense in today’s era of information overload. Its reporting steps out of the news cycle, which is so often commoditized, and provides deeply sourced stories that make sense of trends, look at the future and provide clarity.
When I started at TechCrunch, and before that The Next Web, I was one of a handful of reporters covering tech news from Asia. That has changed with more media sites and the growth in importance of tech, and I believe I will add more value by switching from the ‘what’ of news to deeper stories.
That’s always been what I enjoy the most — whether it is features from way back like explaining the truth behind Lazada’s sale to Alibaba, or, more recently, Honestbee’s implosion or the story of an Amazon would-be in Bangladesh (they aren’t all negative!)— but it gets tricky to find time when you are juggling news and more.
There’s also immense quality to live up to. If you are a subscriber, or have ever read a story from The Ken, you’ll know the bar is very high — that’s a marker that excites me.
Finally, I want to learn about the future of media, and subscriptions are very much a part of that. In three years, The Ken has built a trusted brand of quality reporting that has 15,000 paying subscribers.
There’s a free story every week, but I don’t know of any other pure-play subscription media business that has reached that scale — let alone with a focus on just one country. The Ken has also pioneered innovative ideas including patron-funded subscriptions to grow its audience and strengthen its reputation, while it has a roster of full-time staff — there’s no content sharing arrangements, freelancers or other elements that water down the value of your precious subscription money.
That’s ultimately what is appealing: this is a media company run by media people who are exploring an entirely new business model. I’m honoured to join and help further that push.
I start at The Ken today. I’ll continue to be based in Bangkok, which makes me the company’s first overseas hire. You can reach me via email@example.com — I am also on Twitter (@jonrussell) and I run a weekly Asia tech newsletter: asiatechreview.com.