Out of all the ways to consume news, Quartz's new app is one of the most intriguing. The business news website owned by Atlantic Media hopes to fill a niche by delivering news through an SMS-like interface. The publication's app delivers news that resembles texts, complete with the informality of emojis, GIFs and even haikus. It's certainty one of the quirkier presentations of the world's events, and it's unique enough to actually catch on.
The interface, which closely resembles Apple's texting screen, sends out short snippets of news that can be expanded. Quartz says the "rise of bots and messaging" means the company is heading in the right direction with its approach to delivering news. Human editors rather than bots, however, write the news that's delivered via the app. Presently, the app is only available on iOS.
Changing Times for News Organizations
The app works best if used in short bursts, as there isn't a whole lot of content to be found. Considering how consumers' reading habits are changing when it comes to news, this might not be too much of a bad thing.
Thirty-nine of the top 50 news websites now receive more traffic from mobile devices than desktops, according to the Pew Research Center's 2015 State of the News Media report. While traffic from mobile devices is higher, user engagement is not. Only 10 of the top 50 sites have visitors who spend more time on the site from mobile devices instead of the desktop alternative.
This highlights the challenges news companies -- both new and old -- have. Readers are consuming their news in much different ways than in the past, and companies are trying to adapt. Quartz's new app is an interesting gamble to see if the publication can deliver news in new ways that better appeal to readers. If it works, you can bet other publications will take notice.
The media landscape remains very uncertain as companies try to figure out exactly what customers want. Here's how two of the traditional media companies are faring.
Once print circulation began to collapse with the rise of the Internet, The New York Times led among legacy media companies in charging for content. The company found a metered paywall system that has worked very well.
The fact that The New York Times found digital stability when so many print media outlets failed is impressive, but the company's revenues are far from impressive. Overall revenues continue to decline thanks to shrinking print advertising spend.
In fourth quarter 2015, overall ad revenues dropped 1.3% despite a 10.6% rise in digital ad revenues. The good news is the company has more than one million paid digital subscribers, many of whom use The New York Times app on phones or tablets. The New York Times has a long way to go if it wants to truly impress investors.
News Corporation is a media titan, with The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and scores of other newspapers, magazines and one of the largest book publishers in the world (HarperCollins) under its umbrella. Like other media companies, News Corp. is dealing with revenue problems. In the fourth quarter 2015, News Corp. beat expectations but saw revenues decline for the fourth straight quarter in a row. Most of these declines were due to the company's newspaper and magazine holdings.
Perhaps the most promising developments in news from a financial standpoint are from the nimbler start-ups. Expect some acquisitions as the traditional media companies look for ways to attract younger readers.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.