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Quartz – aimed at the elite, but will it pay?

Atlantic New Media’s lat­est busi­ness title, Quartz, is only avail­able in a dig­i­tal for­mat, designed pure­ly for mobile and tablets, and the tar­get audi­ence is strict­ly elite, com­pris­ing Inter­na­tion­al busi­ness lead­ers who demand the high­est qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help them nav­i­gate the mine­field that is the glob­al economy.

The launch has been sur­round­ed by fren­zy – par­tic­u­lar­ly as the Quartz hir­ing phi­los­o­phy has seen it take on jour­nal­ists from some of the world’s most high­ly regard­ed media organ­i­sa­tions. The man in the top job Kevin Delany and his sec­ond-in-com­mand Zach Seward join the team from The Wall Street Jour­nal, while Gideon Lich­field comes from The Econ­o­mist to take the reins as Glob­al Edi­tor. Oth­er organ­i­sa­tions to lose staffers to Quartz include The Huff­in­g­ton Post, France 24, Gawk­er and GOOD Magazine.

The team of around 25 jour­nal­ists will work pri­mar­i­ly from the company’s head­quar­ters in New York’s SoHo, while cor­re­spon­dents in Wash­ing­ton D.C. and Los Ange­les will keep on top of the sto­ries in those areas. The com­pa­ny is already con­sid­er­ing open­ing offices in Asia and Europe to extend its glob­al reach.

Dig­i­tal only to keep the beat

Quartz also has an inter­est­ing plan for its news­room activ­i­ty, where staff will focus on ‘phe­nom­e­na’ rather than fixed ‘beats’. As Gideon Lich­field explains:

“Instead of fixed beats, we struc­ture our news­room around an ever-evolv­ing col­lec­tion of phenomena—the pat­terns, trends and seis­mic shifts that are shap­ing the world our read­ers live in,” he said.

“’Finan­cial mar­kets’ is a beat, but ‘the finan­cial cri­sis’ is a phe­nom­e­non. ‘The envi­ron­ment’ is a beat, but ‘cli­mate change’ is a phe­nom­e­non. ‘Ener­gy’ is a beat, but ‘the glob­al surge of ener­gy abun­dance’ is a phe­nom­e­non. ‘Chi­na’ is a beat, but ‘Chi­nese invest­ment in Africa’ is a phenomenon.

“We call these phe­nom­e­na our ‘obses­sions’. These are the kinds of top­ics Quartz will put in its nav­i­ga­tion bar, and as the world changes, so will they.”

It seems Quartz will be using this ‘obses­sions’ approach to set it apart from more estab­lished com­peti­tors such as Thom­son Reuters or the Wall Street Jour­nal. While Quartz is small, it hopes to com­pen­sate by using its dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture to be respon­sive in order to keep it one step ahead.

For every­one, aimed at the elite

While aimed at ‘elite’ read­ers, Quartz is free to any­one, and makes its mon­ey by sell­ing adver­tis­ing space, but Quartz warns that any­one expect­ing to see the usu­al ban­ner adver­tise­ments will be in for a sur­prise. The mag­a­zine will build spon­sored con­tent into its very foun­da­tions, using some­thing called the ‘Quartz Bul­letin’. Ini­tial spon­sors include Cadil­lac, Boe­ing and Cred­it Suisse, who are promised full-page adver­tise­ments on the web­site, mobile and tablet ver­sions and were involved in launch activ­i­ties in cities across the world.

While this spon­sored con­tent approach will offer read­ers a less intru­sive adver­tis­ing for­mat, indus­try experts believe that Quartz will, at some point, need to look into read­er rev­enue – per­haps by offer­ing qual­i­ty sub­scrip­tion tools like Politi­co Pro, going for­ward.  They also sug­gest that they need to be care­ful not to com­pro­mise the integri­ty of their true jour­nal­is­tic con­tent, by giv­ing over too much space to their spon­sors or they risk turn­ing their elite read­ers off.

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