Quartz editor 'confident in the ad-funded model'

The likes of The Economist could be facing competition from Quartz, a free online-only global business publication designed for tablet users. Media Week talks to Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney about the title's ambitions and ad offering.

Quartz: 'global focus, digitally native, and free to access'
Quartz: 'global focus, digitally native, and free to access'

Quartz, which launched last month, has emerged out of Atlantic Media, which also publishes the 150-year-old title politics title The Atlantic.

Like News Corp's The Daily, it was conceived as a tablet-centric offering and built using HTML5, allowing it to adapt easily to different devices. Unlike The Daily, it is free and aimed at a global audience.

Media Week spoke with Delaney when he came to London last week to drum up interest in the site.

How would you describe Quartz?

"Quartz is a digitally-native business news site for global business professionals. We are focused on the most important macro themes shifting the new global economy.

"The site is optimised for tablets and also works well on desktops and mobile."

What is the business set-up?

"We have about 30 people including developers, editorial and sales staff, working at Quartz. We have people in Europe, Asia and the US, with headquarters in New York.

"The centres of gravity of the global economy have shifted. The financial crisis of the past few years has pushed that into further focus.

"We're looking to provide information and analysis for professionals to better navigate this. Instead of using traditional editorial feeds, our reporters are focused on an obsession.

"Examples of the obsessions are the energy shock, China slowdown or an obsession around mobile web and how the one billion users of the internet will come online."

Who are Quartz's main competitors?

"Global business news publications, like the Financial Times, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

"But I don't see direct competitors – what we are doing is different in many ways. We have an explicitly global focus, are digitally native, and free to access."

When other digital publishers are struggling to make ad revenue and adopting paywall strategies, why did you choose purely an ad-funded model for Quartz?

"We are really confident in the ad-funded model. We are already sold out for sponsors through to the end of 2012 with Cadillac, Chevron, Credit Suisse and Boeing on board.

"We’re very optimistic about finding advertisers who are interested in reaching global business professionals through Quartz. We believe there is a model where you can have a great, high quality product that is funded by advertising."

Will this strategy help you steal share from other publications which have a paywall in place?

"Our ambition to be as globally read as possible and not having a paywall definitely helps with that. I think now is as good a time as ever to start a new publication - people are reading more news than ever.

"With no paywall, no app store wall or registration wall, this means we can build a broad global readership as quickly as possible. So being free is definitely a big advantage to get us started."

The site is built in HTML5, how would you describe the user experience?

"What we have decided to do is prioritise user experience as much as possible, ranking the most essential information as possible.

"So Quartz does not look like a traditional news website homepage. What it does is provide a new open-ended site, with the 20 most important stories that your editors have selected.

"The first story is open on the page when you come in. We’ve done this to make it as efficient as possible for readers to reach what they want to be reading.

"It is responsively designed so the same web feed adjusts itself to whatever device you are reading it on."

What type of ad formats does Quartz offer?

"There are two primary advertising formats. The first is a display format that we are calling 'Engage'.

"This advertising appears in a relatively large size next to the article. It is a nice, interactive, touchable experience. We are working on further innovations for display which will make it more interactive.

"The second form of advertising we offer is sponsored content – we call this our 'Bulletin' product. Advertisers can publish content, such as articles or video and photographs and it is sharable in the same way our own content is.

"The sponsored content appears in the reading area of the site and we've taken measures to make it clear to our reader this content is sponsored, with it being labelled and the page being a different colour.

"We think it is an interesting opportunity for advertisers to create compelling content."

Is there enough demand for mobile advertising to ensure Quartz's growth?

"We are selling sponsorship across a platform, and there has been a lot of positive feedback. We find there is very strong interest from advertisers looking for high quality mobile placements.

"It is still early in the life of Quartz to predict how this will grow, but so far there has been strong enthusiasm and high demand."

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