‘Atlantic,’ ‘Economist’ Duke It Out for Elites

Quartz is stepping on toes in the global business set

When Atlantic Media nabbed a journalist from The Economist for its new digital business news brand, Quartz, the poach had broader significance. With the launch, Atlantic Media is opening up a second front in its battle with the Economist Group.

The two brands already compete head-to-head in the white-hot Washington, D.C., market, where both have ramped up their government news and data products for Beltway elites.

With Quartz, Atlantic Media believes there’s an opening for a “digital-first” brand for the business set. It'll have a website, but Quartz is seen as being primarily a mobile and tablet product, for the globe-trotting executive. Justin Smith, Atlantic Media president and a former Economist Group exec, said he’s targeting advertisers ranging from financial, energy and technology to luxury goods and automotive.

Under Kevin Delaney, The Wall Street Journal vet who was tapped as editor in chief, Quartz's editorial approach also is taking shape, and like the business model, it also plans to break some molds. Delaney said rather than adopt a traditional beat structure, he's going to organize coverage around certain big issues, like, say, the Chinese consumer, deemed to be of high interest to business readers. Data will also be a cornerstone of the content. "There's a confluence of data being a very engaging thing on the Web and the material being very rich and potential underanalyzed," he said recently. "And the readership is atuned to pretty quantitative approaches."

Since it doesn’t plan to charge users, Quartz will rely solely on advertising for revenue. That’s where The Economist has a leg up; its high annual subscription price ($105 net average) provides a buffer when advertising is soft. Paul Rossi, the Economist Group’s managing director and evp, Americas, said he doesn’t see such advertisers increasing their spending. “Global business and finance is an expensive endeavor. I wish them well,” he said, adding with a knock at a certain wildly expensive business magazine flop, “There’s a portfolio of failed companies.” 

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