Atlantic Media Company launched the business news site Quartz in late September, aimed at the world’s financial elite with a mobile-first approach. The content designed in an app-like setting ideally performs well enough on smartphone and tablet platforms that actual apps would be unnecessary. And instead of verticals, the site’s 20 writers focus on “obsessions”—topics like “China Slowdown” and “Fiscal Cliffs” that could change depending on the news cycle.
Despite a few early hiccups—such as the fact that Quartz didn’t load properly in Internet Explorer or on Android devices—just-released data from Atlantic Media shows it exceeded expectations. The site received 840,343 unique visitors in the month of October. The Economist, which also aims for a global business audience, had 8.3 million uniques that same month, 3.5 million of them from the U.S. Figures are from Omniture.
“We were aiming for half a million unique visitors in the first month and really overshot that,” said Jay Lauf, svp and publisher of Quartz, who added that the site’s visitor growth has been the fastest of any Atlantic digital launch he’s overseen.
About 30 percent of Quartz traffic is coming from mobile devices, according to the company, but Lauf believes that percentage will increase as users continue to migrate to mobile devices. The site’s Android issues have also been addressed although functionality on Internet Explorer doesn’t sound like a priority. (Paraphrasing Elevation Partners’ co-founder Roger McNamee, Lauf explained, “Every dollar, every man hour and every bit of intellectual energy you’re spending on legacy systems is money, time and energy you’re not spending on your future.”)
Other statistics from Quartz’s first month show an audience that’s global, with more than 40 percent of unique visitors coming from outside the U.S., and active on social media, with nearly 40 percent of the site’s visitors from social referrals.
For now, Quartz relies solely on ad revenue, which means that building its audience is critical. Lauf estimated that the site needs to reach between 2.5 million and 3 million monthly visitors to become sustainable. While there are no concrete plans for a premium model at the moment, Lauf did say that it’s under consideration.
The site offers two native ad models. "Bulletins” are sponsored stories largely written by Quartz’s marketing team, and “engage” units offer functionality like video. Lauf said that with advertisers responding positively to the current format, Quartz team may begin offering other and perhaps simpler types of ad units in 2013 although the number of choices will remain limited. “I think the focus will remain on helping the advertisers tell the more in-depth stories and/or take advantage of the site’s interactivity,” Lauf added.
In the coming months, readers can expect to see Quartz expand editorially, adding writers and regularly introducing new “obsessions” to the mix. “It’s been a charmed launch for us so far,” said Lauf, “and hopefully it’s indicative of what’s to come.”