Business news outlet Quartz has lost 5 key people in the past few months

Quartz co-CEO Jay Lauf

  • Quartz has lost five key people in the past few months, including some who were key to its revenue diversification plan.
  • They include the people leading its fledgling membership program. 
  • Quartz has gone through rapid change since its sale a year ago to Japanese media company Uzabase, and some former employees said there was confusion among staff about the strategy behind the membership program.
  • Co-CEO Jay Lauf said the company is doing just fine, though, and that he was “pleased” with the membership program.
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Quartz has lost five key people in the past few months, including some who were central to its revenue diversification efforts.

Those helping lead Quartz’s diversification efforts who left were Sam Grobart, who was in charge of Quartz’s fledgling membership program, and his deputy, Sarah Kessler. 

Also leaving were Solana Pyne, Quartz’s head of video, which was used to help drive membership; and Sari Zeidler, head of growth.

Editorial people who left included Indrani Sen, who was head of Quartz’s lifestyle content, Quartzy, which insiders said was a heavy traffic driver.

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In addition, earlier in the year, Quartz lost its chief revenue officer, Joy Robins, who went to The Washington Post; and Adam Pasick, who headed editorial for the app, to The New York Times.

Launched in 2012, the business news publication was widely admired as a mobile-first, digital-only outlet for global business people. It was known for experimenting with new ways to deliver news through chat bots and putting the user first with tightly written articles and so-called native ads that resembled articles rather than annoying banner ads.

But Quartz has undergone massive change since it was sold in July 2018 by Atlantic Media to Uzabase, a Tokyo-based public media company.

The new company moved quickly to diversify Quartz’s revenue with a $100-a-year membership program that promised access to exclusive, in-depth story packages called Field Guides; events; and conference calls with reporters. Quartz introduced a new app that featured business bigshots like Beth Comstock and Roger McNamee who would comment on stories in the app. It laid off 11 business-side people in two rounds this year.

Six months after rolling out the membership program, Quartz, which had been free for most of its existence, put up a metered paywall to encourage membership signups.

A lot of publishers are pivoting to paywalls and memberships to allay their reliance on advertising revenue, but the jury’s out on how many will be able to generate meaningful revenue this way.

Some former employees said the membership program felt rushed

Some former Quartz employees said they were unsure what the strategy behind the membership program was and said that it felt rushed. 

Quartz co-CEO Jay Lauf told Business Insider that the recent departures would be replaced by new hires or promotions from within. He said he couldn’t give financial figures now that Quartz was part of a public company, but that he was “pleased” with the results of the membership program so far. 

“Our approach, which is member-specific content and access to our journalists and the community, are things we’re encouraged by,” he said.

Overall, he said, Quartz’s business was strong. “Usabase has been a really supportive and energetic new owner. They’ve been investing in Quartz.”

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