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Earlier this month, Google announced the winners of the Google News Initiative (GNI) APAC Innovation Challenge 2022. Six news organisations made the list. And we’re thrilled to announce that The Ken is one of them. 

Today, for the first time, I’ll share what we’re building, why it matters, and how you can help. 

In Google’s own words, the GNI Innovation Challenge is a way to empower global news organisations that pioneer new thinking in online journalism. Across regions, Google invites applications from all types of news organisations, who pitch and present their ideas—maybe it’s a new product, or a bold revenue model, or even initiatives to understand their communities. And every year, Google selects a few of them who go on to receive funding to turn their concept into reality. 

This is the first time that we’ve applied for this challenge.

Because this time around, we believe that we have something truly exciting and revolutionary, and we can’t wait to build it. 

We intend to deconstruct the paywall. 

You’re probably thinking that’s a marketing slogan for a product, but it isn’t. It’s exactly what we intend to do. And we’ve been clear about it from Day 1. Just look at the title slide of our concept when we sent it to Google earlier this year. 

Paywalls are wonderful things. Over the last six years, they’ve been central to helping us build and fine-tune our brand, journalism, business model, and even our organisation. It’s what made us into a subscription-first media company based out of Asia—producing business journalism worth paying for. Nearly half a million registered subscribers across India and Southeast Asia consume our journalism and products. Starting from just one longform story a day, we’re rapidly transitioning to a full-stack media company—we’ve expanded to Southeast Asia, created widely-read specialised newsletters on topics like fintech, retail, green energy, etc. and developed a collection of acclaimed, original podcasts. 

However, we believe that the subscription-first media companies of the future will need to rethink paywalls. Paywalls are great for monetisation if you have valuable content behind them, but the fact is that they dampen discovery of the same content. Paywalled articles aren’t linked from websites. They don’t usually show up on web searches. Few people share them on social media. It’s rare for a paywalled article to “go viral”. 

But what if we don’t need to make that trade-off? 

What if paywalls could do both? 

That’s what we’re setting out to find out.

I’m not going to give everything away just yet, because our assumptions need a ton of validation from user-research, design prototypes, and experimental A/B tests. 

But I can share that our core hypothesis sits at the intersection of three of our biggest assets—our products, our journalism, and our community. 

We believe that we’re working on something that’s truly world-class, unprecedented, and revolutionary.

Of course, there’s no guarantee of success, but we were convinced we simply had to give it a shot, and to Google’s credit, they decided to fund exactly what we want to build. 

But we need one more thing to pull this off. 

And that’s you.  

We’ll need many more talented colleagues alongside those of us already here at The Ken.

At The Ken, there has always existed a significant overlap between our subscribers and our colleagues. Often, it has been because our subscribers know our people, products, and values really well, which creates a shared affinity that makes it easier for them to apply to us. But many other times, it has only become apparent to us after we’ve hired someone that they were a long-time subscriber too.

Please give us a few more minutes to check out the roles. Then, either write to us if you’re interested (via the apply link embedded at the end of each description), or forward it to a friend or colleague you feel might be a good fit at The Ken.

Also, if you want to work with us but don’t see a role that fits your experience and (more importantly) aspirations, then please drop us an email at [email protected] telling us about both. The Ken was built by smart and driven professionals doing many things they never set out to do, but still ended up doing.

To 2023, and beyond.


Praveen Krishnan

Praveen has over 9 years of experience in product management. Prior to The Ken, he was the Director of Product at InMobi. He holds an MBA from IIM, Bengaluru and an engineering degree in Electronics & Communications from NIT, Tiruchirappalli.

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