Social & Digital coffee break: Quartz's future crystallises

Quartz goes private, newsroom product management is the future, and more essential reads for today.

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The Quartz market

Last week, as I was preparing my materials for the new newsletter course I'm leading, I found myself looking at that morning's Quartz daily brief — and realising that it was a shadow of its former self. The key characterstics that made it such a compelling reading in the early 2010s had been lost somewhere along the way, so I dug a 2013 edition out of my archives and used that instead.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with the current Quartz: it's stuck in the trough of irrelevancy that too many publications fall into and die. It doesn't have enough scale to be a true attention trawler, gathering big enough volumes of people to monetise easily. But equally, it is no longer in a clearly defined niche, that people find compelling. Its ruthless focus on the role that it played iun the business community's day has been diluted, and so, it's much harder to understand why you should read — or subscribe to — Quartz.

Making a decision one way or another on scale versus niche will be critical to the survival of the title (and I'm not alone in thinking that). That's the challenge for the aging innovator, which is under new ownership: its CEO and editor-in-chief:

Uzabase Agrees to Sell Business News Site Quartz
CEO Zach Seward, Editor in Chief Katherine Bell will buy Quartz from parent company

Yes, it's a management buy-out, with a hunt for additional investment underway. Right now, the plan is to stick with the membership model:

Mr. Seward said there were no plans to alter the site’s current business model.

In which case, the future of Quartz will be decided by their content and engagement strategy. I remain hopeful. I was a huge fan of the early years of Quartz, and perhaps the return to private ownership will encourage them to do less “me too” content, and more innovative experiments, like the urban fiction I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Their manifesto is promising:

Join our mission to make business better as Quartz goes independent
This is an important moment in the life of our company, and we want to share it with all of you, our readers.

I'll be watching with interest.

The Must Read

Content is Product and Product is Content

Take some time to kick back and read this. Dmitry has done some useful work here, joining the dots between tech and editorial. Product roles are the next wave of critical new newsroom jobs after audience engagement roles.

This explains why:

Content is Product and Product is Content: why deeper alignment is the only way forward
In digital publishing, editorial and tech used to belong to different universes before they slowly started to merge - via ‘bridge’ functions - for the benefit of audiences. The full synergy of these two disciplines leads to better delivery and internal alignment, supports a better focus across publi

What happends when you dump the comments?

Some interesting research:

Here's the summary page and link to the full report.

As we get more serious about on-site community again, this sort of work is invaluable.


You know how Substack was designed around finding a paying audience rather than relaying on advertising? Some big newsletters are starting to turn to… 


The more things change…

The curious emergence of the Substack advertisement
How advertising found its way onto an ad-free platform.

Jobs Corner

My, there are some fantastic jobs out there at the moment.

We’re hiring: Apply to be our Bureau Local Editor
The Bureau Local is looking for a senior editor to take over the editorial direction and output of our small but ambitious team
The Wall Street Journal’s Digital Experiences & Strategy Unit is Hiring!
We are creating a team focused on engagement, and expanding our mobile experiences and storytelling teams.
Audience Engagement Editor
Dods Group is looking for a talented journalist to create a figurehead subscription product and improve its online impact across publishing titles The House and PoliticsHome

Chaser: why is social media like potatoes?

Both are marginally bad for teenagers' mental health…

How the Media Turns Bad Research Into Terrible Clickbait
When you look at the actual research, it turns out that the effect of social media on teen depression is extremely small. Specifically, social media can explain 0.36 percent of teen depression…
quartzproduct managementcontent strategy

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.