Quartz rolls out UK edition in memberships drive

Quartz is launching a new U.K. edition on Nov. 5, following the same new site format as the U.S. version rolled out last month.

The U.K. version of Quartz will include stories that are more relevant or specific to the U.K. and European audiences, like this story on why U.K. drivers aren’t buying more electric cars and how Brexit is changing the English language, rather than stories from its global edition which are more global in focus. Stories on the homepage will be chosen from the London office. The homepage typically includes around 15 stories in total and on most weekdays, more than half of those on the U.K. edition would reflect more local news and perspective.

Quartz also has India and Africa editions. (The India edition is getting the new Quartz layout.)

This is part of the publisher’s strategy in growing its membership program, which launched November 2018. Now, for £48 ($61.96) readers get access to Quartz subscriber-only features, like this video series all about China as a global superpower, weekly field guides — a collection of articles on topics like the impact of 5G and lab-grown meat — and conference calls with reporters three times a week, which typically have between 50 and 100 people tuning in live. In May, to boost member numbers, Quartz introduced a metered model where readers can access three articles a month before paying to read more.

Quartz would not give any indication on how many members it has, although Seward said that, since August, each month has been its best in terms of member growth. Geographically, member numbers follow a similar pattern to its non-paying audience, according to Seward: Over half of readers come from outside the U.S., while the U.K. is its second-largest market.

“That’s a strong sign we have an offering that is meeting people’s demands and solving their problems,” said Quartz CEO Zach Seward

Building successful membership programs takes time and is getting harder as more publishers launch paid-for services. Quartz has been tinkering with different products and marketing messages to grow members. This video series on China has been particularly successful in driving members, according to Seward. Although a report from Business Insider suggests Quartz has missed internal member goals due to a confusing value proposition for members.

“What Quartz is offering is more features rather than benefits,” said Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of consultancy the Sterling Woods Group. “Having great content is not always enough. In addition, you need to carve out this niche. You need to ask, what value does the membership provide? Otherwise, it’s a content subscription in disguise.” Finding a hidden niche within an audience, like those really interested in the global impact of China’s growth, and building the membership around that would lead to more growth, said Ristagno.

Tailoring the homepage with more U.K.-specific content is a welcome addition for agencies. Typically and compared to other longer-established business publishers like Bloomberg, or the Financial Times, Quartz hasn’t had much scale or U.K. content to really excite advertisers, according to buyers. In the U.K., Quartz’s audience has nearly tripled to 1.6 million unique monthly users since last year, according to Comscore, but that’s still fairly small.

WPP media buying agency Essence has been successfully working with Quartz on display campaigns for one of its key clients, Google, since 2017. There hasn’t been as much business-to-business client interest in the native ads and content partnerships that Quartz is known for in the U.K., according to Jahanzeb Alvi, Essence’s digital investment director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Partly, this is because content is still U.S.-centric and the scale of audience doesn’t match competitors. The cost of ad packages can also be prohibitively expensive, although Alvi wouldn’t share the price range.

“When we started working with them, they told us all journalists had hands-on training in data manipulation platforms so they can cook up their own stories using data,” said Alvi. “That understanding of data and flexibility means you won’t see the same content on CNBC or The Financial Times. They are very smart people.”

To help expand its audience, the publisher launched the lifestyle-focused Quartzy at the end of 2016 and approached Essence to be early partners. Articles like “Here’s what to do with your leftover candy corn” don’t reflect the luxury lifestyle vision Quartz wanted to achieve.

“It was meant to be similar to The FT Weekend [the paper’s luxury lifestyle Saturday edition], going after the super-premium high net worth individuals,” said Alvi. “The FT is our client so we understand that space well. We listened and asked tough questions, like ‘how will they gain market share,’ that they didn’t have all the answers for because it was still very new for them.”


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