Quartz’s New Chatbot Is Bringing Conversational News to Facebook Messenger

The company celebrated their latest product at SXSW

With its new chatbot, Quartz hopes to deliver the news and other content to users on Facebook’s Messenger.
Illustration: Yuliya Kim; Courtesy of Quartz

This year’s South by Southwest has been a world filled with over-the-top brand activations, surprise visits from Elon Musk and plenty of new products. Quartz took advantage of the atmosphere of the festival and released Quartz for Messenger on March 8.

With its new chatbot, Quartz hopes to deliver the news and other content to users on Facebook’s Messenger. The company celebrated it with barbecue, drinks, music and a fun introduction to the bot at their SXSW event.

Before guests were allowed to enter, they were prompted to scan a Messenger QR code for the bot and start chatting with it. The bot messaging experience was unique to the event and started with the bot asking if the guest wanted to drink or eat first, even offering selections that were available (it told to me to try drinking Shiner Bock). When the bot’s two creators were about to get on stage to introduce the musical act, the bot casually reminded attendees to check it out. On the way out, the bot “said” goodbye, reminding attendants to grab a gift on the way out.

The new tool won’t just deliver the news, but also send stories that go deep into a topic, learn when to best notify you and share “projects” like new recipes to try. According to Quartz, the company tested the product in the fall for six weeks; 90 percent of users who started to use it ended up finishing the experience. John Keefe, bot developer and product manager at the Quartz Bot Studio, shared that users exchanged “dozens of messages” with the bot.

The strategy driving the chatbot was figuring out how to make experiences that felt conversational and engaging with users.

“It will be—and is—the writing and the experience that we’ve thought through that will keep you coming back,” Keefe said. “It’s not the platform.”

A key bonus: There are 1.2 billion monthly active users on Messenger, making it a promising platform for people to both find the bot and continue using it, as there’s no need for anyone to download yet another app (like they’d have to do for the Quartz app).

The company isn’t interested in driving people back to the Quartz website, either—though that’s not to say branded and advertising opportunities are totally lost. Quartz Bot Studio is planning on bringing that type of content to the chatbot, such as in the “navigational elements,” shared Keefe. They also plan to share with their partners what they’ve learned from users engaging with the bot.

Over time, Keefe said they’ll start to use machine learning to figure out what time a person uses the product and for how long to determine when they actually like to read their news. It will also try not to serve you the same content more than once.

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