Top of today’s newsletter: Quartz is killing its Brief app, which emulated a chatbot but was really driven by editors giving you the impression of personalisation. The emoji-filled app, allowed users to get a quick taster before deciding whether you wanted to skip the story, get a chatbot-style summary or the full story from the source – often the BBC, Reuters, the New York Times or other outlets.
I profiled the app in my Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report – Beyond the Article, Frontiers of Editorial and Commercial Innovation – on innovation and product management in 2017. Quartz originally launched with a responsive site and was very focused on serving mobile audiences while not having a mobile app. This was after the first wave of apps when a lot of news organisations launched apps but quickly found that they lost the attention wars to social media or other apps.
Quartz had decided to join the second wave of apps after realising that they wanted to get onto the lock screen of mobile users as notification use exploded. The app was really a Marmite one – people either loved it or hated it. I liked its earlier, more playful iterations. I often used an example of one of the chatbot lines as the way to write creative, audience catching push notifications. The notification was about a pop-sci story about how female Orcas that had just passed out of calving age. Quartz’s writers teased you in with the line: Menopausal sharks are bad ass. Click! Click! Click!
The Digiday story tried to read the tea leaves on why they killed the app. Was it the loss of editor Adam Pasick to the New York Times? Quartz says no. Was it the fact that the Japanese company that bought Quartz has its own news app, NewsPicks? Probably, but more than likely, it had a cult following. These days in digital media, unless you operate at a certain niche scale, small cult-ish devotion isn’t enough.
In the end, I think this probably sums up the apps death:
“Some people loved it!” one former employee said. “Just not hundreds of thousands of people.”Quartz is shutting down its Quartz Brief mobile app July 1, by Max Willens, Digiday
To be perfectly honest, I used to get pulled in by the notifications. Then they became a little more pedestrian, and I turned them off when I was on holiday. And I never felt compelled to turn them back on, and then I can’t remember the last time I opened the app.
A couple of other notable items in the newsletter today:
- The Publisher’s Guide to Podcasting: What’s New in Publishing by my good friend and commissioning editor at WNIP, Esther Kezia Thorpe
- Introducing the LEDE Fellowship, a solutions journalism fellowship
- Essential verification checklist for students, from First Draft News
And please help me sort through all of the British PM race and Trump noise right now by sending me media news of note. Drop them to me at @kevglobal on Twitter.