Atlantic Media's Quartz pushes the digital ad envelope
Atlantic Media’s digital-first strategy has taken on a distinctly mobile slant with the launch of Quartz, its new business brand designed for tablets and other mobile devices. The publisher’s advertising model is evolving as well through the new brand: Quartz features no IAB-standard ad units.
Quartz, which launched on Sept. 24, debuted with four category-exclusive sponsors who split up the site’s “share of voice” into equal portions. Quartz currently features two main advertising options: a 480x550 display ad that runs at the bottom of some article pages (Boeing example below), and the Quartz Bulletin, a type of sponsored content that is integrates with editorial.
Other ad formats are still “on the drawing board,” said Jay Lauf, SVP/group publisher of Atlantic Media and publisher of Quartz. “We’re still working through what this model will look like next year.” Possibilities include more rich media display units and additional embedded content treatments, Lauf said in a phone interview.
“Our overall philosophy is that commoditized digital advertising has not been that effective,” Lauf said. “We don’t believe you have to be trapped by those old IAB-standard units.”
With its sponsored content – dubbed Quartz Bulletin – Quartz is following a growing trend to integrate branded content into the editorial well. Publishers as diverse as Forbes, with its AdVoice program, and BuzzFeed, with its Featured Sponsor posts, have embraced this concept, going so far as to provide sponsors with access to the same publishing tools their editorial staffs use.
Quartz is offering a similar model with its take on “native ads.” Advertisers can publish their own content directly or work with the Quartz sales team to create “engaging, quality content,” Lauf said. Quartz is encouraging brands to create a broad variety of content, including infographics and video, and also to leverage the social web.
“We want to give brands a paintbrush and a wider canvas to paint on,” said Lauf.
The first sponsored posts on Quartz show that advertisers have some work to do to raise the quality bar. The content includes a mix of rewritten press releases and extended ad creative – not exactly the types of assets that will engage the “global business elite” reader Quartz is targeting.
Clearly, it’s a work in progress. Lauf sees these sponsored posts as a “collaborative, consultative process” between Quartz’s sales team and the advertisers. “We’ll work together to help them understand the target audience. And our marketing team can help editorially to develop their assets.”
Atlantic Media is further along than most publishers that have adopted digital-first strategies, having started its journey way back in 2007. Last October, digital advertising revenues passed print ads for the first time. Its digital success appears to be empowering Atlantic Media’s aggressively mobile approach with Quartz.
Lauf acknowledged that optimizing for mobile doesn’t necessarily translate as well to the desktop experience. “There are some simple design and UI tradeoffs you have to make,” Lauf said. “But we’re not going back. We’re blazing a trail, and we’re comfortable with the tradeoffs.”