The search engine Blekko just launched ROCKZi, a visually compelling way to consume and interact with the fresh content that users care about the most. After selecting the category that you want to read (Geekery, The BiZ, Glitterati…), you are presented with articles in a grid view reminiscent of Flipboard on the iPad. You can upvote the article with the “This RockZ” button and leave a comment. Users can submit new articles and share them on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. On top of that, you accumulate karma points with every action.
However, don’t be fooled by the different product names — Blekko and ROCKZi go hand in hand to improve the human-curated experience that made the search engine popular in the first place.
ROCKZi was first conceptualized by a Blekko engineer during an internal hackathon and then developed into a full-scale product. “We didn’t want to present fresh content in a traditional news search kind of way by launching news.blekko.com and putting a search box there,” co-founder and VP of marketing Mike Markson says. “Blekko is all about curation — people want to curate, you just have to give them the right set of tools. The other goal with ROCKZi is to take the curation aspect out of the hands of just the power-users and hand it to the everyday users,” he continues.
Indeed, Blekko users have been identifying quality content in vertical categories called slashtags since the day it launched. It then allows users to refine queries with /news, /tech or /blogs for example — those slashtags are the keystone of ROCKZi as well. “Rather than making slashtags a searchable database, we wanted to turn it inside out and provide it as a feed,” Markson says. In addition to leveraging Blekko search assets to constitute ROCKZi’s news sources, news categories are searchable. Putting it another way, it is a less intimidating way of using slashtags by simply selecting the category you are interested in as a first step. Finally, ROCKZi uses Facebook Connect to show you the content your friends have submitted or liked and their area of expertise.
The website is now live and mobile apps are on their way. Blekko has raised around $50 million and, according to Markson, it had 5.5 million users in June. When it comes to monetizing the service, they are considering putting ads next to ROCKZi search results the same way they do in Blekko.