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2014 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium Newsroom finalist

qz.com

 

About the Project

Quartz was created to be a new kind of business news offering that is global, journalistically serious, digitally native, and designed for the mobile and tablet devices that increasingly dominate our lives.

Our coverage of the new global economy is rooted in a set of defining obsessions: core topics and knotty questions of seismic importance to business professionals. And the stories we write deal with the cutting edge of industry: 3D printing, natural gas exploration, mobile payments, Arctic shipping, bitcoin.

Our team of journalists around the globe has experience reporting in 115 countries and collectively speaks 19 different languages. Their focus is on producing smart and creative—and often visual and data-driven—takes on the news, alongside high-impact reported features. One feature from last December explained in detail how bitcoin worked by tapping a reader’s computer, tablet, or smartphone to engage in mining the digital currency. (As the piece explained—and our post-publication experience proved—it takes computing power beyond our readers’ reach to generate bitcoin riches.) Another feature pulled together on-the-ground reporting, data analysis, and extensive maps and images to detail China’s water scarcity and the world’s biggest water-transfer project launched to address that. We published the list of Davos attendees in a searchable interactive database that other journalists have used as a source for their own pieces. Another piece used Twitter’s own functionality to track CEO Dick Costolo’s whereabouts during the days around the company’s listing as a public company.

In giving Quartz its general excellence award for large sites, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers cited our “deft combo of modern methods and traditional storytelling.”

In addition to ambitious journalism, Quartz has created tools that allow all of our reporters to produce sophisticated data-rich, visual content many times every day. We estimate that half or more of our posts on Quartz contain at least one chart, graphic, or interactive, many of them made using a homegrown newsroom tool called Chartbuilder. We open sourced Chartbuilder and it’s now also being used by publishers including the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNBC, and FiveThirtyEight. (Earlier this year, Chartbuilder won Digiday’s award for best publishing technology innovation.) We built another tool called Mapbuilder that allows journalists to easily represent data on maps, and plan to open source that before too long as well.

Quartz looked different than most news sites when we launched in late 2012, with a design intended to get out of your way and let the content shine above all. This included jettisoning the “right rail” whose limited utility on many sites is effectively training readers to ignore it, and letting a user start reading an article as soon as they land on our site and then scroll right into the next one. “Like Jony Ive design at Apple, its apparent simplicity is the combined product of deep thought and of a series of bold moves by its owner, the Atlantic Media group,” media critic Frederic Filloux said of Quartz in his Monday Note column last October. (Of the content, Filloux wrote, “It’s smart, fun, witty, basic and sophisticated at the same time.”)

We’ve won awards for Quartz’s design, and have since improved the look and feel, redesigning part of the site before we even finished our first year. Last summer, we added our own spin on commenting to Quartz, allowing readers to annotate individual paragraphs in the margins. We allowed readers to authenticate to annotate using their Twitter accounts.

Over 40% of our readers visit our responsive mobile-friendly site from smartphones and tablet devices. Because reading email on a smartphone is still one of the most efficient mobile content consumption experiences, we launched Quartz with a morning email newsletter. The Quartz Daily Brief now has over 75,000 subscribers and an open rate above 40%. Our approach, subsequently imitated, was to create a high-quality email briefing with voice and value on its own, not requiring readers to click through to our website.

Over 60% of the visits to Quartz are by readers coming to us from social-network sources. Our journalists are trained to think about the social engagement of content from its inception. And with no app or paywall or registration wall, we’ve minimized the friction to it being shared.

One of our goals with Quartz has been to demonstrate that quality journalism can thrive in our digital era, and we have strived to pursue that with creative intelligence.