The news industry, as we all know, is in a chaotic state. Remaining relatively unchanged for several hundred years, newspapers are quickly becoming a relic of the past, and publishers, by and large, have yet to figure out the digital landscape.
Most attempts at innovation have failed. I suspect this is for two reasons. First, attempts at serious digital publications have primarily come from industry titans- those who have been in the printed word business for some time. Consequently, they bring their preconceived notions and biases with them, usually resulting in simple replication (here’s the printed word, but on your computer screen!). Second, those with the initiative and the know-how to succeed in the digital realm often simply don’t have the resources necessary to move digital journalism forward.
This presents a bit of a paradox: if you’re a leader in the printed word, you may have the resources to produce a great digital offering, but putting your most experienced people on the job means bringing over those print biases. Alternatively, if you haven’t been trained in print, chances are you’re young, and your resources are limited, for simple lack of experience and existing network.
Quartz is a different beast altogether. The brainchild of a fistful of hardened news veterans with a nerdy side, Quartz is not simply the printed word in digital form. It’s a digital-only news publication with the resources and financial backing of some of the industry’s greatest names, being owned by Atlantic Media Co., which publishes The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive. What Atlantic Media Co. has done, it seems, is interesting: they found their nerds with a passion for journalism, and put them to task at creating what they see as the future of news.
The result is a web app that’s designed for mobile first. The initial app was developed for the iPad, then focus moved to mobile phones, and lastly, the desktop. This mobile-friendly approach results in a wonderful reading experience on virtually any device. Note, also, that there is no native app, for any platform. Quartz is built for the web, meaning that the designers and developers behind the site can focus solely on HTML with no worries about the iOS approval process or Android fragmentation.
The news itself is framed in the context of the modern businessperson. Ranging from world news and economics to lifestyle and technology, every piece is written with modern business in mind. Specifically, the underlying context of every article is the ‘new economy’- the one we were left with after the financial meltdown of a few years ago. Quart’s own ‘about’ page sums it up nicely:
Quartz embodies the era in which it is being created. The financial crisis that recently engulfed much of the world wasn’t just a cyclical decline or a correction or even a bubble bursting. It was a breaking point. And its shockwaves exposed a fundamentally changed economic order with new leaders and ways of doing business.
Every piece of news on the site seems to have been written with this ‘breaking point’ in mind, by writers who have the knowledge and experience to understand the new business world in which we’re living.
Quartz’s founding team includes veterans of some of the world’s highest-quality news organizations who have reported in 115 countries and speak 19 languages. Our main office is in New York City, and we have correspondents and staff reporters in London, Paris, Taiwan, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. We expect to expand quickly to other locations.
This team knows the challenges that lay ahead, the importance of creating a serious, true digital news experience, and that the current void presents a huge opportunity to transform the news industry. They also seem to possess a purist attitude on the subject of digital journalism:
We’re also a nerdy bunch, embracing the opportunity to create a newsroom that is wholly focused on digital storytelling...
...We know that the future of news will be written in code...
...In all that we do at Quartz, we embrace openness: open source code, an open newsroom, and open access to the data behind our journalism.
Digital storytelling. It’s been tried before. Some have even been moderately successful, depending on the metrics. None have approached the challenges with the gravity needed to truly transform the industry, to step forward and tell the rest of the industry “Follow us.” Quartz feels like the first such endeavor, and my hopes for it could not be higher.
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