Atlantic Media is selling Quartz to a Japanese new media company.
The sale, with an unspecified price valuing web-only Quartz at between $75 million and $110 million, depending on how the outlet finishes out the year, is expected to close within a month and will see Quartz become part of Tokyo’s Uzabase and led by its founder Yusuke Umeda.
Uzabase is best known as the operator of NewsPicks, a subscription-based app for aggregated business news that also has a social element. Quartz will take over operations of the English-version of NewsPicks. Uzabase wrote in a statement that Quartz will maintain its name and continue operating out if its headquarters in Manhattan and copresident’s Kevin Delaney and Jay Lauf will become co-chief executive officer, reporting to Umeda. Joy Robins and Zach Seward, chief revenue officer and chief product officer and executive editor, respectively, are remaining in their roles.
It’s unclear whether there will be changes to the rest of Quartz’s sizable employee base, which was called into an all-staff meeting Monday morning. A company representative couldn’t comment immediately.
In an open letter to readers, Delaney and Lauf wrote that “all of [Quartz’s] existing activities” are set to continue.
It’s also unclear exactly how Quartz will be impacted by the deal. The Japanese company seems eager to expand NewsPicks’ reach in the U.S. and Europe, saying the acquisition will give Uzabase “a larger, more robust global business news brand” that will use “Quartz’s voice, editorial, advertising and product expertise and international reach with Uzabase’s deep expertise in data and niche paid content.” But little was said of Quartz’s output going forward. Uzabase did note that the site is “on track” to increase revenue by at least 25 percent this year and that it is poised to speed up a transition to a subscription-based model. Since its launch in 2012, Quartz has operated as a free ad-supported site.
Delaney and Lauf wrote in their letter that this move to subscriptions won’t be total, as current free content will remain free, but that they are “very focused on also providing premium content and services alongside them.”
Of his motivation for the acquisition, Umeda said Quartz was a part of his inspiration to launch NewsPicks five years ago.
“I thought they were truly the first new media company to successfully combine quality journalism with mobile technology,” Umeda wrote in a statement. “I am very excited to enter the next chapter of NewsPicks’ growth with a company that I respect so much.”
Lauf added that Quartz and Uzabase, which launched within a year of each other, “share a spirit of entrepreneurship and belief in the importance of high-integrity journalism and quality advertising.”
Quartz was launched under the Atlantic Media banner as a mobile-first business news site and it grew into a well-known outlet, now claiming 20 million viewers a month. It’s also been focused on branded content and boasts more than 600 “content campaigns,” so far, something it intends to continue expanding under Uzabase.
Without Quartz, Atlantic’s best-known brand is The Atlantic, which publishes in print and online. Outside of its eponymous title, the company operates several trade journals, but last year Atlantic sold a majority stake to Emerson Collective, the company of operated by Lauren Powell Jobs. Atlantic said it’s going to continue supporting Quartz through its transition over the next year, while Atlantic chairman David Bradley intends to continue working with the company as a senior adviser and shareholder. But another intention of Bradley’s is to divest his media assets altogether.
Talks for the acquisition began in the fall, when Uzabase reached out to Quartz to discuss working together in some way. NewsPicks claims 3.3 million registered users, 64,000 of whom pay a $15 monthly subscription. While that’s only about 2 percent of NewsPicks’ audience, subscriptions make up nearly half of its revenue. It launched in the U.S. roughly a year ago in a joint venture with Dow Jones. Quartz was started by a number of former staffers of The Wall Street Journal, a Dow Jones affiliate.
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