Atlantic Media business website, Quartz, staffs up and strategizes

The Quartz landing page. ()
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Atlantic Media's forthcoming digital business title is taking shape with new hires and a clear editorial strategy.

Two months ago, Chris Batty, the former Gawker sales boss who'd just been tapped as publisher, told Ad Age that the venture—subsequently named Quartz—would be "a run at the space The Economist and The Financial Times currently occupy."

Apparently he wasn't kidding around: Quartz has hired The Economist's media editor, Gideon Lichfield, to oversee its news content. Lichfield also previously served as The Economist's deputy digital editor, a role in which he helped develop the magazine's online strategy. (His new title at Quartz will be global news editor.)

"He's an amazing journalist and an amazing thinker about digital media," said Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney. "That's the combination at the core of what we're doing at Quartz."

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But that's just it: What are they doing at Quartz?

An elaborate geological metaphor and an appealingly simple URL are behind the name, which will live online at the two-character qz.com. Delaney recently told Forbes that the intent is "to cover obsessively the tectonic shifts in the global economy.”

But Quartz won't really be a website in the conventional sense. It is positioning itself first and foremost as a publication distributed over the web through mobile connections, geared primarily toward consumers who can read it on their tablet- or smart-phone browsers via HTML5, same as they would, say, The Financial Times.

"It can behave like an app but technically operates like a website," said Delaney.

He described Quartz's target reader as a "global business leader—someone who is international and does business around the world and is in some leadership capacity in their organization. We want to reach people traveling around the world on business constantly."

There will be three main "strands" of content: News and analysis (short and long; reported and aggregated); commentary ("We're planning on having a vibrant section of contributors from around the world," said Delaney); and, for lack of a better term, "editorial innovation" (data visualization, document-sharing and anything else that "pushes the limits of the standard 700-word article").

Delaney wouldn't give a launch date, but said it would happen "later this year." Quartz is headquartered in Soho with plans to open satellite offices in Europe and Asia down the line.

As for the masthead, only about half a dozen of the planned 25 hires have been locked down so far. But Delaney, who left The Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the year to launch the site, said he's "working toward full staffing pretty quickly," and that about 20 of the positions would be in editorial.

In addition to Delaney and Batty, Lichfield, who's worked at The Economist since 1996, joins former Journal social media editor Zach Seward and former New York Times product engineer Michael Donohoe.

"I didn't take the decision to leave The Economist lightly," Lichfield told Capital via email while traveling this past weekend. "But I felt I had done most of the things there that I was interested in doing. Quartz offered me the chance to do something quite new while sticking to the same journalistic values, and it seemed too good to pass up."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article identified Michael Donohoe as a former New York Times web developer. His most recent title at the paper was senior product engineer.