Quartz to Lay Off 80 Employees and Emphasize Membership Model

Changes are part of an overall restructuring plan.

Business news site Quartz is planning to lay off 80 employees, or about 40% of its total staff, as part of the company’s restructuring, reports The New York Times. Like other news outlets, Quartz has seen a dramatic decrease in advertising revenue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, employees in Quartz’s advertising department will be the primary targets in this round of layoffs. About 20 or so journalists will lose their jobs, says the NewsGuild who represents the union the reporters belong to. The news was revealed in a public filing last week by Quartz Owner, Uzabase, a Japanese financial intelligence firm.

Employees were notified in an email by CEO Zach Seward who said Quartz would be eliminating about 80 jobs. Other cost-cutting measures include executive salary cuts ranging between 25% and 50% and the shuttering of offices in London, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Washington. Quartz will look to grow memberships and rely less on advertising revenue.

“Our strategy is to focus on what Quartz does best, which is analysis of global business and economics for our audience of young, ambitious professionals,” said Seward in his email to staff. “The business model will still be a mix of subscription and advertising revenue, but as a smaller and more focused company, we’ll only do those things that serve Quartz’s core.”

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“I never want to eliminate jobs if we can avoid it, least of all in the current environment, and so we looked for every other responsible way to save money first. I have cut my own salary by 50 percent for the remainder of the year, and the rest of our executive team…are voluntarily cutting their salaries by 20 percent, as well,” Seward added.

When visitors go to the Quartz website at Qz.com, they will be invited to try a Quartz membership for free for seven days. It is difficult to find the cost of membership, but the information is available in the FAQs. A Quartz membership is $14.99 per month or $59.99 per year. The annual rate is discounted by 40% for the first year. Subsequent years are $99.99 per year.

A Quartz membership includes:

  • Complete access to all Quartz content
  • Exclusive in-depth guides, presentations and videos
  • Discussions with fellow readers and peers
  • A direct relationship to Quartz journalists

According to The New York Times, the eight-year-old Quartz moved to a membership model in 2018 after being acquired by Uzabase. As of last month, Quartz had close to 17,700 paying members. The business news site appears to use a metered paywall, but it is not clear how many articles a visitor can read for free before being required to become a member. [Editor’s note: We tried accessing two articles related to COVID-19 and received notifications that both articles were member exclusives.]

Nieman Lab reports that hundreds of media jobs were lost last week. We reported on BuzzFeed on Conde Nast. Vice and The Economist also laid off staff last week for a total of about 335 journalism and related jobs.

Insider Take

COVID-19 is taking a dramatic toll on lives and livelihoods with the media industry being among one of the hardest hit. It seems we get news of layoffs, unpaid furloughs, pay cuts and organizations folding every week, sometimes every day. Quartz is just the latest. Who will be next?