Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This Is Why Quartz and BuzzFeed Are Today’s Smartest Publishers

Not because they necessarily create the best content, but because they market their content better than anyone else. Put another way, they meet readers where they are, not where they want us to be.

Consider Quartz’s e-newsletter, the Daily Brief. According to Zach Seward, Quartz’s head of product, “Its success is due to writing the email as its own thing ... The purity of that mission is what makes the Daily Brief shine. We’re not trying to drive traffic to qz.com; it lives natively in your inbox.”

Why does this matter? Mathew Ingram explains:

“Instead of seeing all of the various formats or platforms that it uses as just a way of driving more clicks to a website, Quartz sees them as worthwhile in and of themselves. While the site’s content may not be monetized directly on that platform, it helps build the company’s brand and its knowledge about other platforms and social tools, which in turn allow it to monetize its content better on the Quartz site, which it does through native advertising ...

“This is very similar to the way that BuzzFeed looks at its content, and why it created a unit called BuzzFeed Distributed, which creates content that lives on specific platforms like Snapchat and Instagram rather than always pushing for clicks ...

“This strategy is one reason why BuzzFeed isn’t as concerned about a deal like the one that Facebook is offering with Instant Articles, because unlike the New York Times and other media outlets, it doesn’t live or die on whether it gets people to click through to its site. The content it puts on Facebook succeeds or fails on its own terms, and then BuzzFeed uses those lessons to make what it does on its own website better. And one of the big benefits of this approach is that it makes BuzzFeed and Quartz and others like them a lot less reliant on external platforms as a means of driving clicks.

Addendum (5/28/2015): Digiday’s Lucia Moses picks up on this thread:

“Many publishers are already treating email newsletters, often used a way to lure people back to publishing sites, as platform-like publications themselves, designed to be read entirely in email without readers having to click through to the host’s site. That means creating content specifically for the email experience, often more conversation and text heavy than standard email newsletters that act as reproductions of websites.

Addendum (7/23/2015): More Mathew Ingram: Quartz is pursuing a BuzzFeed-style strategy with its video unit