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Atlantic's Quartz builds momentum quickly

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Atlantic Media's digital-only, global business publication Quartz saw traffic swell in December. The site attracted more than 1.4 million unique visitors, up 63% from November, bringing the tally for its first three months of operation to 3.5 million. That number is more than three times the conservative estimate that Quartz Publisher Jay Lauf said he gave advertisers at its debut. “We promised our sponsors that we would do an aggregate of 1 million unique visitors,” he says. “My approach to those kinds of estimates, when you don't have hard data, is to underpromise slightly without completely sandbagging it. So we thought we'd do a little better than that. We blew away our expectations.” The publication, which resides at qz.com, launched as a website optimized for a mobile audience. Almost half of visitors to the site in December used phones or tablets to access the content. Social referrals have been a boon as well, driving slightly less than a third of December traffic and validating an approach that requires no visit to an app store, no fee and no registration, Lauf said. “A native Web app is at the heart of our approach,” he said. “You can grow much more widely and rapidly in this maturing, socially driven Web ecosystem.” The focus at Quartz has been the development of quality content, Lauf said. Readers share stories that offer fresh perspectives and that come from sources that reflect well on them. They like to read about technology and the financial crisis; and they like images that explain complex ideas. “Articles with original insights through infographics are the biggest drivers of traffic,” Lauf said. The publication has also leveraged the strength of its sibling brand, TheAtlantic.com, and developed more than a dozen partnerships with such media outlets as the BBC, Business Insider, the Council on Foreign Relations and Yahoo Finance. Quartz has developed a presence not only on Twitter and Facebook but also on Google+, Tumblr, subscription-based social newcomer App.net and Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. Flipboard developed a promotional package when the site signed on with the platform, an app that allows users to co-mingle partner content and social media feeds. Events in New York; Washington, D.C.; Hong Kong; and London underscored the international focus of the publication. Currently 40% of visitors to the site come from outside the United States. Clients such as General Motors Co.'s Cadillac and Credit Suisse Group have signed on to a content marketing vehicle that Quartz calls the Bulletin, which places clearly labeled, sponsored stories directly into the site's news stream. Quartz is also preparing to install third-party ad management platform OpenX to strengthen its tracking capabilities, Lauf said.
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