‘Audible panting’: Quartz, once a high-performance startup, sold to G/O Media 2022-04-28 12:26:00


Quartz Business News started 10 years ago as an ambitious news site targeting “Global Business Elite. Its competitors have seen such as the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Their ads, as shiny as magazine ads, came from proverbs Cathay Pacific, Rolex, Credit Suisse, Ralph Lauren, and Boeing. By 2017, it was Make a profit for the first time and planning on 270 employees worldwide.

In recent years, with revenues plummeting and layoffs, it has become clear that Quartz has not delivered on its early promise. (What was the last Quartz story you read?) However, it was a shock to many Watch it sold to G/O Mediathe private equity company-owned digital media group that relies on cheap automated ads and that probably got most attention In her corporate life Destroying Didspin.

Reactions to the news on Thursday included:real inhaleI gasped out loudI gasped out loud when I heard this newsOh boyI wish the best to my colleaguesUgh. What is this messdepressedlollolololololololUhStopThis is going to be messyWow Wow wowWasn’t expecting thisthe problem. “

“After acquiring Quartz Private in 2020, we sought to raise funds and stay on our own,” Zack SewardCo-founder of the company, who will become its chief editor at G/O Media, wrote in Staff note Thursday. “Selling wasn’t the plan, but it became the best course of action for Quartz and all of you, when we started talking to G/O earlier this year.” He promised, “There are no layoffs associated with the sale, nor planned once we merge,” and said employees “will be eligible for transaction rewards from the proceeds from the sale, totaling more than $1 million.” Quartz currently has “about 100” employees, each PR person.

Kathryn Bell, the company’s current chief editor, is leaving the company “to try something new. We remain business partners, and we made this deal with G/O together. She supports it,” Seward wrote.

the site that She got rid of her unpaid wall two weeks agoThe paid newsletters will continue, which will also be G/O Media’s first subscription products, Seward (one of the early Nieman Lab employees) told me.

As Seward also noted in his memo, “This is the third time Quartz has been sold.” Site Launched in 2012 As a business website for Atlantic Media, a dedicated mobile site that delivers news to young elite of an international audience.

In 2018, it was Bought by Uzabase in Japan to report $86 million. In 2020, quartz layoffs 80 employees (out of about 180 employees) and closed international offices. Later that year, Seward Bought the company back from Uzabase. As of February 2022, the site had 110 employees.

In the pre-Uzabase era — say, 2012 to 2016 — quartz was quirky, innovative, and on the path to profitability. Launched as a free site, it is not supported by traditional display ads but via sponsorships From Boeing, Credit Suisse, Chevron and Cadillac. “We’re not the first to offer sponsored content, but what’s interesting is the fact that we’re basically building it,” Atlantic Media President Justin Smith He said at that time.

“There are few digital press stories more compelling than Quartz’s growth,” we have Joshua Benton Written in 2015. “Although it was born with the advantage of having a highly desirable target audience – the global business elite – it managed to do a lot right: shareable content, visual excellence, global reach, smart advertising strategy, mobile-first design… all the time High quality. It is one of the few operations that I recommend to many people who ask me: Who does it right?”

quartz I experimented early with chatting apps And Released Its data visualization tool, Atlas. Site Outperformed The Economist in web traffic in 2013. Its annual revenue grew from $18.6 million in 2015 to $30 million in 2016, According to Uzabase Investor PresentationBut by 2017, revenue had fallen again to $27.6 million — a drop Ozabasi said was due to an overreliance on advertising revenue.

Even quartz Introducing paywall It launched a $100 per year membership in 2019. But revenue continued to crash – to $12.3 million in 2020 and $11.1 million in 2021, Sources told the New York Times. The sources also said the site lost $6.9 million last year, and before the deal with G/O, it wasn’t expected to end until 2023. G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller said it would be profitable by the end of this year. , the New York Times reported.

two weeks ago, Download firewall. “We made that decision separately, before we started talking to G/O, but it actually fits perfectly with the G/O strategy,” Sewards said.

Seward told me that “the G/O Media portfolio model, or the conglomerate model, or the stable brands model, whatever you want to call it,” is very suitable for Quartz — in addition to being, now, the model it uses “essentially all of G/O’s competitors.” From Vox Media to Bustle Digital Group.

He said the acquisition would allow the newsroom to “focus solely on doing the best journalism possible and reaching as many people as possible.” “We don’t have to worry, day in and day out, about the source of our funding, because we are backed by a much larger organization.”

Plus, he said, the programmatic advertising that G/O Media relies on — which Quartz once avoided — will be an asset. “The G/O advertising business is complementary to our business,” he said.

Reaction to the sale on Twitter has been considerably less enthusiastic. The promise that there would be no layoffs was met with disbelief, because G/O Media has This claim was made byJust to keep laying off people.

However, Seward emphasized in his memo to employees that a G/O offering appeared to be the best option for the company. When he and Bill considered other offers “from individual investors, funds and other media companies… their visions of our future often began with job cuts.” When he spoke to Spanfeller, “it wasn’t hard to get commitments to no layoffs and editorial independence.” He wrote, “G/O was able to provide enough cash in this transaction for Quartz employees to obtain a deduction, which would not have been possible in any other scenario.”

As for criticism of the deal, well: “I would say, everyone should keep reading and judging based on what we’ve produced and what we’ll produce in the future,” Seward told me.

Photo of the Quartz editing room in 2015 by Mia Mabanta.