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The new Quartz app is fun, perhaps divisive, but bang on trend, showing us what content distribution might look like soon.

When Quartz was founded, it was pretty revolutionary for news on the web - mobile first, big bold text, single stream layout, changing topics, great data viz, free to use (!), a daily digest email, etc.

Since then, it has adapted somewhat to compete with click bait on social media, but hasn't really been 'bleeding edge' in rapidly-evolving mobile.

The Quartz app changes that. Here are six things to take note of, that all media companies should be investigating.


Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger are widely expected to be increasingly utilised by third parties, such as retailers and media outlets, to serve customers.

This may reduce current problems of app adoption, provide a familiar (and pleasing) user interaction and allow for more regular communication.

Quartz's app uses a messaging style to update its users on the latest news stories. As you can see below, it quite obviously apes a familiar format.

quartz app

Here's what Kevin Delaney, editor in chief of Quartz, told the Guardian:

It’s a format that readers are familiar with. It’s also relatively unexplored from the perspective of: how do you turn a newsroom towards publishing directly on to this interface? So that’s part of it.

We think about this in the context of messaging platforms as well and while we’re not doing anything along these lines we’re creating content that clearly could also live on other messaging platforms. The team is learning to interact with readers through messaging to see the extent that there are opportunities for media organisations on existing and future messaging platforms. 

Interestingly, as Zach Seward, VP of Product at Quartz, tweets below, the messaging format is inspired in part by lifestyle app Lark.

lark app

Despite the slightly misleading tech coverage around the Quartz app launch, users can't simply text back with their own questions, rather the Quartz app gives a couple of options (as seen above) for a 'reply', which then triggers the next piece of content delivery.

One App Store reviewer, quoted below, feels this is a little misleading, and could bring bias into news reporting.

Also I can’t “converse” with it using my own words, but instead it puts words in my mouth. I have two choices: “so what’s the Fed’s mistake?” and “anything else?” Really?

Thats a great way to completely bias my interaction with the news. Also, it leaves me with a STRONG feeling of the shades of Clippy. “I see you’re reading the news! Can I spoonfeed that for you?”

However, my own view is that this format could be good for engagement; users signed up to the daily digest email are often reluctant readers, and this app interaction (using everyday language) could be a new way for those readers to catch up in a relatively pain-free way.

On the point of bias, news is rarely without it, and sometimes it's a product of dumbing down, found in colloquial language.

If greater engagement leads to accusations of bias, I'm sure that's a relatively small price for Quartz to pay, though something to keep an eye on with this new method of reporting.

Sponsored content / Ad light experiences

The whole experience is brought to you by MINI. There are no ads in the app, apart from this message that occasionally displays when you've caught up with all the stories.

This is an ad light experience that will relieve many a reader.

(Related: 10 publishers that want you to disable your ad blocker)

quartz app sponsored by mini


Seeking new readers who are reluctant to purchase full subscriptions, newspapers behind paywalls, such as The Times of London and The New York Times, have released apps that populate with a smaller sample of content.

These apps are designed to appeal to the more casual reader. They almost gamify news reading by encouraging 'completion', letting the user know when they are 'all caught up'.

Though Quartz is free for readers, this concept still makes sense as a way of getting light readers to engage.

As you can see below, the app let's you know when there's nothing new to read, in this case giving me a quiz question instead, keeping me curious. I liked this touch.

The answer is Atlanta, by the way.

quartz app

Snackable content

Yet again, some App Store reviewers don't like the fact that a messaging format inevitably encourages a light-touch engagement with big issues.

Here's a strident fellow:

Teenagers who don't like reading the news? So they'll turn to some automated chat thing that makes it 'look' like you're texting someone? Kids who don't like to read the news, won't read the news. If you're an actual news reader, this app isn't for you because you're getting little fortune cookie bits of info, then have to go to the full article because you'll inevitably feel you want to read more, when you can just read full articles through another app or website.

If you aren't a regular news reader, this app isn't for you either because this app doesn't give you anything more than just going to a news website or app, and scrolling through some headlines... It's a cute gimmick. 

What this reviewer has missed is:

  1. It's silly to underestimate the appetite for a dumbed down product.
  2. This is a work in progress, designed to capture a whole gamut of readers (including young ones).
  3. Clicking through the the article in full is easy and quick to do, so the messaging interaction becomes a different flavour of the filtering a reader does on a more conventional app (which article to choose and engage with?).
  4. This 'gimmick' may provide an endorphin rush, similar to that experienced during gaming or social networking, which could improve interaction rate.

quartz app

GIFs / Emojis

A pre-requisite for many demographics. They're here in spades and create an accessible, memorable and distinctive approach to news.


Quartz content has gradually evolved to be more social, learning from BuzzFeed that content from Twitter can offer valuable context and colour to news stories.

This is brought to the app, too. Below, Quartz includes some of the best Jeb Bush gun-tweet reactions, as seen on social.

quartz app  

Overall, the Quartz app feels like a minimum-viable product that will hugely benefit the business, regardless of whether it succeds or fails. 

If you're interested in learning more about the future of media, Vice UK's Mark Adams will be talking at The Future of Digital Marketing in London, 7th June 2016.

Ben Davis

Published 17 February, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)


Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

This curated 'chat' format might help Quartz escape ad blocking at mobile network level (assuming it happens).

8 months ago

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