Kevin Delaney

Editor-In-Chief & President of Quartz

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 06, 2015

Discussion

Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
Hello everyone, I'm Kevin. I'm the editor-in-chief and president of Quartz, the global business news site from Atlantic Media launched in 2012 at qz.com. Prior to creating Quartz, I was a tech reporter at The Wall Street Journal for a decade with postings in Paris and SF, before becoming managing editor of WSJ.com. There, I led efforts that helped greatly expand the Journal’s online readership and championed innovative journalism projects—like the pioneering "What they know" series on online privacy—that went on to win prizes. Bring on the questions!
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hey Kevin! What are the key markers of innovative, impactful journalism that separate it from standard reporting? Thanks :)
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@lejlahunts I think curiosity and ideas are at the core of any impactful journalism. As a tech reporter for the WSJ I always tried to ask myself "What is the question that isn't answered that would have an impact if you could answer it?"
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@lejlahunts Here's an example of one of those stories about the Google IPO: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB11... (sorry if paywalled)
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@lejlahunts Here's another one about the Google founders' private jet: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB11...
Amrith Shanbhag@amrith · Community at Product Hunt & Feathrd
Thank you @kevinjdelaney for doing this AMA :D Can you tell us what inspired you to create Quartz and what are your plans for its future?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ambonium Quartz is a sister news organization to The Atlantic, we're owned by the same company. And the idea was that there was room for something adjacent, more business and global focus. Several of us joined to figure that part out, and our idea for the original thought experiment was what would The Economist be if it was founded now and not in 1843. Our high-level conclusions: 1) mobile-first 2) global 3) journalistic
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ambonium Our ambitions are to create something that has relevance over decades like The Economist, and whose journalism spans text, charts, images, videos, messaging, VR, and whatever comes next. We want to be where our readers are.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Kevin! Thanks for being here today. During your career to date, what has been your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why? c) most surprising moment? Thanks!
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge Hard questions! Lemme given them a shot.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge Hardest moment was maybe when I 10 years ago told my bureau chief I aspired to have his job one day, and he told me he didn't think I'd ever get it. That really lit a fire under me.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge b) proudest moments are multiple: breaking stories on the internet beat like the Google plane one I linked to, seeing a great reporting series I'd backed on online privacy in 2010 have a huge impact, being part of Quartz as it reached 5 million, 10 million, 15 million readers and winning awards for journalism driving it
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge c) most surprising was maybe being in my first job out of university and discovering that the TV production company I was working for was founded on a tax scam of the Canadian government. (Longer story best told over beers.)
Tom Critchlow@tomcritchlow · Co-founder Fiercely Curious
I'm inspired by Quartz Atlas - those charts are awesome and seem like such a great strategy. But I'm curious, was there an explicit strategy or did Atlas just grow organically out of the newsroom? I remember seeing the chart builder on Github well before Atlas was a "thing"
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@tomcritchlow thanks tom! Atlas (atlas.qz.com for those who don't know it) grew out of the newsroom! We created chartbuilder to be used as a tool for our journalists to make beautiful charts easily and then opensourced it as a gift to our colleagues in newsrooms around the world. Our own journalists themselves created close to 4000 charts last year alone. http://qz.com/318339
Tom Critchlow@tomcritchlow · Co-founder Fiercely Curious
@kevinjdelaney @tomcritchlow cool! Great to see something grow organically and then get embraced as a "thing" like that.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@tomcritchlow But we realized that while we were creating jpegs of charts and sharing them on social to great enthusiasm, the charts and data should have their own permanent address/home on the internet. So we created Atlas to be that for our journalists, with anyone allowed to embed link or use the data. And we're doing the technical work to allow others to create charts hosted on Atlas right now.
Tom Critchlow@tomcritchlow · Co-founder Fiercely Curious
@kevinjdelaney @tomcritchlow that makes me happy - I think an open platform like that to host these little bits of data is an excellent idea for QZ and for everyone. I wonder if there's a way to have it powered by Github so that the underlying data can be forked/commented on etc?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@tomcritchlow That's an interesting idea. Right now we allow people to download the data behind charts, and over time want to make it easier to use, expand, remix, comment on the data.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @kevinjdelaney thanks so much for joining us today. Would love to hear where you see the future of journalism with newer click hunters like Buzzed and Vice, are we seeing the end to more traditional media houses? Are we moving to much more short form? Are you concerned in monetising Quartz by the ever disappearing ad dollar? What are your plans to monetise quartz?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@harrystebbings Hello all. Thanks for some great questions. Will start with these and work through...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@harrystebbings I think there's a great future for trad media companies if they can get out of their own way. They have journalists who know how to report and tell great stories. And they often have very dedicated business and technical staffs. Main challenge is to unshackle themselves from some of the constraints of their legacies.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@harrystebbings An example: Most newspaper reporters don't write their own headlines, partly because writing headlines could only be done in the manufacturing part of the newspaper process in the 1900s, when they were set in type. Journalists write great headlines, and it helps them to focus on what they say in the first place.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@harrystebbings At Quartz, we believe in what we call the Quartz curve—doing journalism both fast and focused and shareable. And longer where there's a payoff for the reader in reporting, analysis, narrative. I talked about that more here if you're interested: http://digiday.com/publishers/wa...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@harrystebbings An example of something at the long end of the curve we published yesterday: http://qz.com/523144/calais-refu...
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
@kevinjdelaney Hi Kevin - what would you say is Quartz's biggest achievement so far? When you all launched you aimed to make the site different from anything else already out there. Do you think you've done that?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@jeffumbro It's hard for me to be objective about this. But my sense/hope/belief is that we've helped show the way for quality content that thrives online. Before we started, there was a big unfilled opening between traditional print-focused serious journalism, and more superficial SEO-driven aggregation.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@jeffumbro We wouldn't take anywhere near all of the credit for filling that over the past three years, but I think we've helped give others confidence. Many places have copied our formats, like that of our email newsletter, and chart-driven stories, and tried to steal away our journalists—which are data points that support this idea.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@jeffumbro Other thing I'm proud of is having a truly global outlook. Our journalists speak close to 30 different languages and are located all over the world. My view is we should strive to be as post-national as possible, and we've I think connected with a readership that feels the same way.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · PMM @Twitter // Previously @ProductHunt
Hey Kevin! Between Twitter and Reddit, the amount of sites for news I visit directly has drastically diminished (to almost none). Have you guys altered the way you share content to make it more viewable from these sources? Aside from your account, how do you get others to share it?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@andrewmettinger We created Quartz without a homepage because we knew that social and such sites were the only way people would find our articles, in the beginning especially. Today our homepage only drives about 5-10% of our visits. And our focus is on getting our content to our readers on whatever platform they're using. We publish to our own social accounts, and ask our staff to be active as well. And we have some partnerships with other media orgs to promote each other's best work on social. We also have our journalists write with social framing and distribution in mind from the start. Articles need to be important + INTERESTING to work for social. (for readers generally too, for that matter.)
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Kevin! Welcome. What do you think of Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover, and other social distribution platforms? Some publications are nervous to host their content on 3rd party platforms yet the distribution potential outweighs the risk in giving up control. Thoughts?
Amrith Shanbhag@amrith · Community at Product Hunt & Feathrd
@rrhoover does Medium too play a role to some extent?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@rrhoover Hey Ryan - Answer is what I said just above. We're not nervous about that, though there needs to be monetization and a good user experience. If those are there, we're on board for going where the readership is. We won't insist that people read us on qz.com only.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ambonium @rrhoover We haven't distributed our main content stream through Medium yet, though we like it as a platform for its design, content, smart leadership etc.
Hi Kevin - Thanks for doing this AMA! Media seems to be pretty tough as a business. Low barriers to entry, Low competitive moats, No clear comparative advantage, Difficult to scale. What do you like about this sector and how do you see it evolving?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@rajeshj I'd say you underestimate the challenge of producing quality content that, in our case, resonates with a sophisticated business readership. That's hard to do, and hard to convince advertisers that you're doing so they'll advertise with you. In three years we've made a lot of progress, but it's not actually easy.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@rajeshj I've been a journalist or aspiring writer for as long as I can remember, and what I love about this moment in history is the rewards for experimenting and creativity and tinkering and finding and telling good stories.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@rajeshj That's at the core of how this will evolve.
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · Words @ProductHunt & @AngelList
@kevinjdelaney hey Kevin! Curious how news organizations like Quartz are thinking about Facebook Instant Articles, and creating content that may not actually lead to traffic and monetization directly?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@nivo0o0 Quartz is an API! My colleague Zach Seward explained that on Nieman Lab here better than I could summarize: http://www.niemanlab.org/2015/05...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@nivo0o0 And others have picked up on that http://fortune.com/2015/05/15/me...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@nivo0o0 Short answer is we want to get our content to where our readers are, including on Facebook. There needs to be traffic and monetization there but we're not wedded to those things happening only on qz.com itself. That would be silly.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Who are some journalists you especially admire now, and some that have influenced or inspired you during your career?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
Among those whose writing I've most admired is journalists/historians Adam Hochschild (author of King Leopold's Ghost, among others), Ryszard Kapuccinski (Imperium etc). As a writer, I've loved Michael Oondaatje's non-English Patient works.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge As a business journalist, it's impossible not to have admired Michael Lewis's work in so many different forms/outlets over the last two decades. And Jim Stewart, now at the NYT, is another of those great reporter/storytellers. Kurt Eichenwald's The Informant book (not the Matt Damon movie made from it!) is as good a work of storytelling and reporting as I can recall reading.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge Recent critical reporting on Theranos by John Carreyrou of the WSJ has reminded me of a story he wrote years ago on Vivendi that was part of a Pulitzer prize-winning package. His having seen a handwritten note written by the CFO to the CEO in a moment of desperation is kind of amazing still: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10... And another former WSJ colleague Rob Guth wrote a profile of a Msoft exec where he managed to access a critical performance review written about her, and also this cool story about Bill Gates working in his socks and drinking Diet Orange Crush in a secret hideaway location http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB11...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What was the most interesting thing about being posted in Paris compared to SF? What was your favourite article from each posting?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge Another question perhaps best answered at length over beers!
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge But short answer is back in the day at least reporting in France was very very relationship based. It took multiple three-hour lunches to get someone to open up to you. My favorite stories from that era are all fairly offbeat, like this one of riding the paris metro when it was shut down as part of a wacky group of metro enthusiasts: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge Or this piece on the last remaining rollercoaster drivers in the world http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10...
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@ems_hodge From SF there were many fun stories, like the Google jet one mentioned earlier that involved a lot of sleuthing. Or being among the first to nail down that Google was buying YouTube.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
Hi Kevin! What do you consider the most interesting problem spaces (that you'd be interested in solving) currently facing the world?
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@katesegrin That's a hard question! I'd love to figure out how to make it easier for readers to contribute to our content. Collectively they know a lot more than we do. We tried an annotation function to tap their knowledge and bring it onto our articles very visibly. But for whatever reason that has resulted in low-volume contributions (though they tend to be high quality.)
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@katesegrin More broadly, I've followed very closely my colleague Steve LeVine's writing on the still-frustrated attempt to create a super battery, which if accomplished would have big implications for cars etc. and our environment.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
@katesegrin Climate, refugees, inequality, opportunity are clearly among the most important issues of our day—I'd like to see those problems solved quickly, by others and myself to whatever extent I can contribute.
Kevin Delaney@kevinjdelaney
Thanks all, for your questions. Was a great way to pass an hour. Please come visit us at qz.com and send me any feedback. And let me know whose journalism you especially admire. (I'm on Twitter @kevinjdelaney) You've spurred me to want to work more consciously at solving the world's biggest problems, and to reread some writing I've loved in the past! Have a great day!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@kevinjdelaney Thanks so much for joining us and answering all our varied questions with such awesome insight! 😘