Skip to main content

Seminar report: Quartz: 'A Mobile-first Approach to News'

07 Nov 2016

By Illona Turtola

These days more and more people follow news by using mobile phones, and not laptops. This was the starting point for Quartz, a digital business news service, which in 2013 overtook the Economist for the number of unique monthly visitors in the US. It currently reaches 20 million unique monthly readers through the website (18 million) and other products. Quartz was launched in 2012 with a clear strategy: to do business news with a mobile-first approach. Quartz says “mobile is king”. Quartz also sets their quality standards high: it wants to be “The Economist of the 21st century”, says Akshat Rathi, a London-based reporter for Quartz. Quartz has become popular at a rapid pace and at the same time the number of staff has grown from about 20 people to 200 people. Quartz wants to attract first a business audience. In addition to business news, it covers lifestyle and health topics. Akshat Rathi said Quartz has three principles: provide global business news, respect readers’ time and go where the readers are. Providing global business news means Quartz operates globally. They are based in New York, London and Hong Kong, and they also have journalists in several other cities worldwide. Quartz has three editions: a global edition and special editions for India and Africa. One way it covers business news globally is its daily e-mail newsletter which has 250,000 subscribers. Quartz’s second principle – respect readers’ time – is about the length of a story. As Rathi said “force yourself to keep it short”. All the stories Quartz publishes are of course not short, as there are variations. The shortest stories are “things” which are sometimes only about a photo, a chart, or a surprising fact. The longer stories are features which tell “everything a reader must know” about a particular subject. When Quartz was launched, they did not have a homepage at all. Now Quartz has a homepage but despite that they have not given up their third principle: go where readers are, don’t expect them to come to you. So far Quartz has found various ways to attract audiences. One worth mentioning is the Quartz iPhone app. Quartz wanted to create an app which can offer something more than a website. Quartz’s innovation was a chat-based app: users get news in a way like they would be chatting with a friend. It has also worked hard finding the best ways to do videos for Facebook users, such as capturing an audience without using any audio. Akshat Rathi, a reporter at Quartz was speaking at an RISJ Seminar on Wednesday 2 November 2016.