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Quartz's app. What's happened since launch?

Although it is barely four years old, Quartz has established itself as a major player in world news. Its stratospheric growth driven by an emphasis on mobile.

At FIPP London, Simon Davies, MD EMEA, Quartz UK began his presentation by stressing that the company's approach was resolutely mobile. “We have a desktop site,” he explained. “But it is largely a zoomed up version of the mobile site.”

Simon explained that four years ago Quartz's parent company began to think about what type of site Quartz should be. He added that not having a legacy website, or print background was a distinct advantage.

“However there were big disadvantages, for example, being a company of just 25 people that was preparing to take on companies as large and established as Bloomberg.”

“Quartz was launched at the point where mobile was superseding desktop in terms of time spent online,” explained Simon. “It was inevitable that we would focus on mobile for our launch. It is especially important in areas where launched in - news. Our own research on news consumption showed that up to 73% of people get their news via mobile devices.” 

However Simon argued that people are not not necessarily spending time on news apps. He added that QZ.com coincided with the launch of HTML5 which has such flexibilty that it meant that need for app was less.

Simon then outlined some key assumptions that Quartz make about its business and its readers.

First Simon stressed that they strive to “respect their readers time,” and stay out of their way. “They are unlikely to have come out to your site to see what ads you are carrying,” he explained. “Really simple navigation. Make the story stand out visually. Stack stories in a vertical news system. Minimal navigation. In short make it easy for reader.”

Simon believes that advertisers have been slow to react to this new mobile reality. “This has had a direct impact in what we are able to do as publishers,” he said. “It is clearly an issue. Mobile advertising budgets are growing, but brands and luxury ads are late to mobile.”

Simon then asked “what is the alternative to ads at the moment?”

“We built our own bespoke units. If you want to buy an ad you have to speak to the team. We don’t have interstitials, everything is part of the flow of the articles.” 

What's going to happen next?

“Predictions around the future of digital and mobile are a fool's errand” said Simon. “User behaviour is changing too fast to make sensible predictions. No one knows what is going to happen next.”

Simon did admit though that his company made bets on the future - eg the Quartz app which was launched in February.

The creation of the app was driven by the growing importance of notifications. The app issues notifications which have the look and feel of a messaging app. They include GIFs and emojis and there are two way conversations. Everything is controlled by an editorial team and not artificial intelligence.

Simon finished by explaining the way the app is monetised. “There are two ad slots, a static image which is issued once per day per user, and then a native placement when you have finished your chat.” 

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