Atlantic Media, publisher of The Atlantic, a 155-year-old magazine known for its longform political and cultural reporting, is today launching a digital-only business magazine called Quartz. The new title is the latest step in the once-fusty company’s increasing emphasis on digital, and in part an acknowledgement that paper’s death as a magazine publishing medium is imminent.
These days, The Atlantic’s reporters are also prolific bloggers, with James Fallows, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alexis Madrigal, and Robert Wright adding their voices to the magazine’s daily reporting at TheAtlantic.com, supplementing the publication’s other digital-only ventures, Atlantic Wire and Atlantic Cities. Quartz itself is a well-resourced operation, with former Wall Street Journal managing editor Kevin Delaney as Editor-in-Chief and Gideon Lichfield, formerly The Economist’s Deputy Digital Editor and Media Editor, as Global News Editor. It has a team of 20 journalists.
Digital revenues now make up 65 percent of all advertising revenue at Atlantic Media, according to David Carr’s report on Quartz in the New York Times today. The company had a rough decade at the start of the century, losing $8 million to $10 million a year for 10 years, owner David Bradley told Carr, but, with a new digital-first strategy, the company has increased its revenue from $20 million to $40 million in the last four years. It has been profitable three years running.
“It’s become very, very clear to me that digital trumps print, and that pure digital, without any legacy costs, massively trumps print,” Bradley told Carr.
No one has truly cracked the model for magazine publishing in this difficult digital era, but The Atlantic is making a lot of smart moves with Quartz. Here’s what I like best about it.
Mobile, not desktop
The magazine has been designed with tablets and smartphones in mind, which is smart because readers are increasingly shifting from desktops and laptops to the handheld device. Quartz is also a Web app rather than a native app, so it is platform agnostic and readers won’t have to constantly update it as it develops. It has responsive design, so the layout automatically adjusts to your screen size.
Sponsors, not advertisers
Boeing, Cadillac, Chevron, and Credit Suisse are on board as launch sponsors and have bought out the site until the end of the year. They are sponsors rather than advertisers, so Quartz won’t be slave to the pageview-driven model that favors quick hits and aggregation over quality journalism.
In-stream branding, not banners
Sponsored content will be built into the editorial stream while banner ads will be cast aside. While it remains to be seen whether or not sponsored content can be elegantly and non-intrusively integrated into the stories while maintaining editorial integrity, I think we can all agree that banners can’t die soon enough. It also means that sponsored content will likely follow the stories wherever they go, even if they’re being read on third-party platforms, such as Flipboard or Zite.
Insight, not data
Publishers have to face reality: News, and especially business news, is increasingly a commodity. In fact, you hardly have to leave Twitter to find and consume it. Instead, Quartz will be trading in what Editor-in-Chief Kevin Delaney says is “real insight,” a much rarer thing. Incidentally, that’s what we aim for at PandoDaily, too.
Free, not pay-walled
Even more so than search, publisher traffic these days comes from from Twitter and Facebook, among other social media referrals, so Quartz will have no paywalls and content will be allowed to roam freely. Instead, Quartz will look for revenue from sponsorships and events.