Test driving Zeen: the new platform from YouTube’s founders

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I know what you’re thinking: oh no, another social platform guaranteed to eat my life. Zeen is the brand spanking new content curation platform from the creators of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. One look at Zeen’s homepage will tell you all you need to know: “discover and create beautiful magazines”. It sounds good in theory right, but what is Zeen like hands on?

Zeen recently opened in beta, so I took the opportunity to test-drive it. I reserved my screen name ages ago, so after receiving my invite I hurriedly entered the URL and got cracking. Setup is easy and idiot-proof; Zeen connects with your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Once you’re all configured, you’re presented with your personal profile page — to which other users can subscribe — and can opt to create your very first Zeen magazine. So how does it work?

Zeen is super simple. Think: a mashup between Pinterest and Tumblr. First, select a title, description and cover image for your front page, then pick a theme that suits the style of magazine you’re creating. I opted for the Music theme, but there are others to choose from like Fashion, News, Food and Business.

From this point on, you have free reign over what you put in your magazine. Mix it up with Google searches, YouTube content, Instagram photos, Tweets or RSS feeds — anything that pertains to the theme of your magazine.

Each piece of content is one click away from being inserted instantly into your publication. Once you’ve added your content — one piece of content per page, maximum 20 pages per magazine — you can publish your mag and share it with your friends or customers.

According to Hurley, Zeen is built on the same architecture as the revamped Delicious — which is definitely noticeable at first glance. Although the platform is still very much in beta (on-page formatting options still need tweaking, amongst a variety of other improvements to be made) it’s definitely worth signing up and trying it out, especially if you’re a Pinterest or Tumblr devotee.

As for the feasibility and longevity of Zeen… Only time will tell. Do users really want (or need) another content aggregator? Isn’t this just paper.li without the automation? We’ll have to see what happens after the beta testing phase is over. Conclusion pending.

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