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Quartz chases advertising with new media initiatives

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Quartz chases advertising with new media initiatives

Business site shows faith in ad model with sponsored book and fresh brands

Quartz, the Atlantic Media-owned business news site, is increasing its push for advertising, at a time when other publishers are turning to video, paywalls and e-commerce to counter the pressures of the digital ad market.

The company is publishing its first print book, launching new management and lifestyle brands, and adding a second daily email newsletter. All of the expansions incorporate new advertising opportunities for Quartz, which derives all of its revenue from ads and event sponsorships.

For its print debut — a book titled The Objects that Power the Global Economy that goes on sale on September 6 — Quartz included branded content, a form of advertising that drives 60 per cent of its revenue. The book, which explores subjects including gene sequencing, blockchain technology and lithium-ion batteries, is sponsored by Qualcomm, a longtime advertiser, and features a section about the chipmaker’s role in mobile communications.

“We’re going against the trend, in the sense that we unapologetically believe that there is a healthy and better advertising model to pursue,” said Jay Lauf, Quartz publisher and co-president.

“It starts with the premise that I don’t believe that people hate advertising, they hate bad advertising experiences,” he said. “We believe that if you try to create advertising that is an additive, interesting, pleasant experience for the user, you’re going to get a better experience for the advertiser.”

The privately held company, founded in 2012, does not disclose financial results, but is projecting double-digit revenue growth this year. In 2016, it turned a profit for the first time, earning more than $1m on revenue of about $30m, according to a person familiar with the matter. In August, it drew 22m unique visitors to its website.

Quartz’s success in building a profitable advertising business comes as many publishers are struggling with the growing dominance of Google and Facebook. The tech giants soaked up 72 cents of every new dollar spent on digital ads in the US last year, according to eMarketer.

Quartz sells display advertising on its website, mobile app and newsletters, but the majority of its revenue comes from custom content, such as a chat bot it created for Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the Qualcomm book partnership. As a result, the company’s cost per thousand impressions (CPM) is in the $60 range, when the average CPM for display ads in 2016 was $13.88, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau and PwC.

“Their whole philosophy is that they’re selling scarcity,” said Ken Doctor, media analyst at Newsonomics. “It’s why print and traditional broadcast worked. There’s a limited space and time.”

Liya Sharif, Qualcomm senior director of global brand, said the book allowed the chipmaker to advertise “in an unexpected and breakthrough manner”. She added: “The audiences for Quartz and Qualcomm align well — these are the people involved in building and shaping our relationships with technology.”

For its new management and lifestyle brands, Quartz has signed up new and existing sponsors, including Prudential and Lincoln, which will advertise on the Quartz at Work management site.

Kevin Delaney, Quartz editor and co-president, said the company had identified “untapped appetite” for management and lifestyle coverage. “These are opportunities for readership and, on a business model level, are as big as where qz.com was when we launched it five years ago,” he said.

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