I like the idea of Quartz, the new business magazine from the Atlantic Group, but I’m not convinced they have a plan in place to reach the people they need to reach. Maybe they do, but I haven’t heard about it yet. Instead, Quartz Editor-in-Chief Kevin Delaney, in an interview with the Nieman Journalism Lab, responds to a question about distribution mostly by citing the quality and accessibility of his content. These are good things to have, but they aren’t the same as a distribution strategy.
Nieman’s Justin Ellis asks, “You aren’t on a print newsstand and you’re not in an app store. How are people going to find Quartz?” Delaney responds by saying Quartz’s content is (a) free, (b) multiplatform, and (c) “made to share.”
That’s not an answer that satisfies me (not that Delaney should be trying to satisfy me, to be sure). The question is about discoverability and distribution, not about access. Only the third part of Delaney’s answer speaks to distribution, and only in the most finger-crossing way. It strikes me as very similar to the Dot-com 1.0 fallacy that great products will naturally and without any marketing effort attract large user-bases — if you build it, they will come. This didn’t prove to be the case. While many entrepreneurs still resist (or are simply ignorant of) the idea, marketing — in whatever form — is increasingly seen as crucial to the success of even the best product.
This is nowhere more true than in the media business — especially in the straight journalism racket. It is trivially easy to publish a page of content, and not all that hard to produce content that’s compellingly good. (Yes, bring on the slings and arrows, all you sweaty producers of compellingly good content. Although know that I do feel your pain.) The hard part is to get that content in front of people’s faces.
For this new venture to make a meaningful impact, Delaney and Quartz will need a better strategy than producing content that’s “made to share,” if you ask me. But you didn’t, so…