A collection of interviews to learn how the pandemic transformed work within newsrooms and the media.
We have long followed the work of Quartz closely, one of the most innovative digital media in the US and an important part of the rebirth of the newsletter format in the news industry.
In these years we have referenced in different articles several of its movements, from positioning itself as one of the first media to experiment with chatbots to distribute news to planning the redesign of its home in tune with the logic of reading its newsletters.
In this new shipment of the #MPP series we spoke with Zachary M. Seward, Co-Founder and CEO of Quartz who from New York shares the lessons learned during the pandemic and the challenges of coordinating a team remotely in the process of redesign and organization of a hybrid newsroom.
1 — What have been the biggest challenges when running a medium remotely and coordinating a newsroom from virtuality?
S:Z: I think we’ve done a good job moving our processes and typical newsroom workflow to an entirely virtual environment, in part because our newsroom was already pretty widely distributed before the pandemic, so we’ve been collaborating over chat tools since Quartz was founded in 2012. What’s been more difficult to move online are the more casual encounters that are important for getting to know each other and building camaraderie on a team. Of course that’s been doubly difficult while everyone is stressed out about the pandemic, but as we look to more normal times in the future, I want to make sure we create more space for that kind of casual team-building, which will include a mix of virtual and in-person work.
2 — Which of these changes generated by the pandemic do you think will continue in the future for the media industry?
S:Z: Some events will go back to in-person, especially daylong and multi-day events, but I think we’ve shown that a lot of programming is actually better when done virtually. So we will continue to do virtual workshops, and I suspect a lot of other media companies will, too. I also expect the media industry will be more progressive than most in embracing work-from-home — not all companies, of course, but certainly any looking for a competitive advantage in hiring will.
3 — Let’s talk about audiences, what changes have you noticed in the last year in the consumption modes of Qz users? Did these changes modify your content distribution strategies?
S:Z: Readers have been more eager to ask questions of our newsroom when we provide the opportunity — probably because there is so much uncertainty these days. So that’s been a fun shift and allowed us to gear a lot of our emails around answering reader questions. It also inspired us to launch Quartz Essentials, which put the news in context for readers. Similarly, we’ve seen an increase in traffic from Google during the pandemic, reflecting much the same trend, I think.
4 — Have you seen digital content in other media to stand out for its quality or originality? Could you mention a few?
S:Z: I am so appreciative of news organizations that have invested heavily in tracking the data of this pandemic — among them, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Covid-19 Tracking Project. We really would be lost trying to understand this pandemic without those datasets of cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and vaccinations being so readily available. Reuters has done a particularly good job collecting global data.
5 — Do you think that this new context drove a certain type of innovation that would not have been possible otherwise?
S:Z: I’m not sure if everyone working remotely affected innovation, but I definitely think the fact that everyone worldwide has been going through this pandemic together, including the journalists covering it, has affected the nature of the coverage for the better. It’s more empathetic. And I hope that empathy extends to other coverage, including of the pandemic that’s still raging in parts of the world while richer countries return to normalcy.
You can read the translation of the interview into Spanish here.