Quartz is ditching the paywall it introduced just three years ago in the latest example of digital media companies looking for a profitable business model.
Quartz had allowed people to view a limited number of articles before requiring payment to continue reading. However, “it was very clear to us that the[paywall]. . . was limiting Quartz’s influence, and that’s certainly traffic-related,” said Zach Seward, CEO and Co-Founder.
Seward said Quartz would continue to generate revenue from both advertising and subscriptions, but he wanted to focus on “the right kind of subscription,” like premium niche offerings, while keeping the general website free. to read.
“As we have this proliferation of subscription offers from every news agency under the sun . . . it becomes increasingly important to be clear and differentiated in the motivations for paying for one thing over another. “, did he declare.
“We’re not moving away from subscription revenue. I expect this change to result in growth in the membership program,” he added. For $15 per month, Quartz offers subscribers access to premium email newsletters and online events. It also sells subscriptions devoted to specific topics, such as Quartz Africa, which costs $10 per month. Quartz has about 25,000 subscribers.
Quartz was founded in 2012 by Atlantic Media, owner of The Atlantic, and came of age during a dramatic rise and fall in enthusiasm for online media outlets. The company launched with a slick website and developed a following for its data-driven journalism focused on the global economy.
However, like other free websites that rely on ad revenue, Quartz was beholden to Google and Facebook when they took over the online advertising market. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm hit traffic referrals.
In 2018, Atlantic Media sold Quartz to Japanese media group Uzabase for around $86 million, and the new owner sought to expand its subscription business. But that transition hurt revenue, which in 2019 fell 22% from a year earlier to $27 million, according to public filings.
Just two years after buying it, in 2020 Uzabase sold Quartz to Seward and editor-in-chief Katherine Bell for an undisclosed sum. After restructuring and laying off nearly half of his staff, Seward hatches a new strategy for Quartz’s 50-person newsroom. He said he was evaluating financing options, such as new minority investors, and reconfiguring his business model.
News media groups such as The New York Times and Financial Times have relied on subscriptions, while business news sites such as Insider have also introduced paywalls.
“It’s an easier proposition for the FT to start with more brand recognition and a subscriber base to have that influence and not feel limited by the paywall. For us, [it’s] totally different,” Seward said.
Some online media companies such as BuzzFeed have advanced with ad-based news that can be read for free. Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, argued that the general public needs widely accessible news publications.
Seward compared Quartz’s business model to that of The Guardian or US-based public media outlets, which depend on donations from readers or “members”.
“Growth is determined on something quite different. . . it’s the journalism and overall impact we have that will determine whether people think it’s worth supporting.