Delaney is Talking Biz News business journalist of 2013
Kevin Delaney has shown the world that quality business journalism available for free on the Internet does have a strong future.
As the editor in chief of Quartz, a business news site started in 2012 by The Atlantic, Delaney has built one of the fastest-growing news sites on the web, and he’s done it by focusing on providing business and financial news that no one else is doing. He’s also built the site to cater to those reading on mobile phones and tablets.
After just a year and a half in operation, Quartz now has 4 million monthly readers, surpassing long-established business news brands such as the Financial Times and The Economist. Its Daily Brief email has grown from 7,000 subscribers a year ago to nearly 50,000. A year ago, Quartz had 11,300 Twitter followers and 4,500 Facebook fans. It has now grown to 66,000 Twitter followers and 34,000 Facebook fans. And, its social reach is 150 million people.
Those numbers show that free, quality business journalism does have an audience, even online. And that’s why we’re naming Delaney the Talking Biz News Business Journalist of the Year for 2013. He beats out Peter Coy of Bloomberg Businessweek and Paul Vigna of The Wall Street Journal in a purely subjective selection.
“Kevin can’t resist a good idea,” says Zach Seward, senior editor at Quartz. “Get one in his head, and he won’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, or fighting to make it happen. He’s a joy to work for because, in the end, all that matters is whether the idea is any good. If it is, he’ll stand up for you. Oh, and there’s a cardinal rule about Kevin: If you get him anywhere near a whiteboard, he will start writing on it.”
Quartz is not your typical business news site, from the type of stories it covers to the technology used to tell those stories. It allows readers to annotate its articles. instead of leaving comments. Readers can also highlight parts of articles while linking to them.
It started Chartbuilder, a front-end charting application that facilitates easy creation of simple, beautiful charts used in stories like this on iPhone sales. Another application, Mapbuilder, allows reporters to place data on maps and could be open sourced next year.
Quartz plans to become profitable in 2015, less than three years after its launch, with advertising as its primary revenue. Its staff is across the globe, with reporters in Europe, Thailand and Hong Kong as well as the United States. Those journalists focus on what Delaney calls “obsessions,” or topics important to a global business professional.
“What we’re trying to do, and over the last year it has crystallized, is write things at the intersection of importance and interesting,” said Delaney in a phone conversation Monday afternoon. “We want to cover things that people will share. We’ve shown that in a year you can get to close to 5 million readers a month globally, and close to 40 percent of our readers are outside the U.S., with virtually no marketing and traffic support, just by writing stuff that is interesting
Internally, Delaney drills the staff on the “Quartz Curve” for its writing.
“People are interested in short focused things, of less than 500 words, that people are very likely to share, or long things, articles or more than 1,000 words, where there is a real payoff to the reader in terms of a narrative and analysis,” said Delaney. “We want to focus as much as possible on these two sides of things.”
An example of Quartz’s long-form journalism was a recent 7,800-word article by Steve LeVine on battery technology. “That was extremely popular when we ran it I think it’s pretty clear that there is a strong readership to be built up with readers from strong, serious in-depth journalism and writing things in the news that are more focused,” said Delaney.
Delaney is also proud of this Bitcoin explainer published Dec. 17.
Based in New York, Delaney came to Quartz from The Wall Street Journal, where he served as managing editor of WSJ.com, and as a reporter and senior special writer for the Journal, covering the Internet and other topics from the Paris and San Francisco bureaus. Early in his career, Delaney was a reporter for SmartMoney magazine and a TV producer in Montreal.
When he was hired to start Quartz, Atlantic Media president Justin Smith called Delaney “a brilliant journalist, digital strategist, and global thinker.”
Quartz has also held more than 15 events since launching, including The Next Billion conference, a full-day event exploring the societal and business implications around the next billion to come online through mobile devices in emerging markets.
While managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Online, Delaney was responsible for its editorial content and direction amid a period of rapid growth and successful expansion to new platforms such as the iPad.
Alan Murray, now president of the Pew Research Center but former executive editor of The Journal Online, recalled being impressed with Delaney despite his unassuming behavior.
“Kevin’s low-key personality masks a high-quality intellect, and a high-energy approach to journalism,” said Murray in an email Monday to Talking Biz News. “He was a superb reporter, and has now proven himself to be a superb manager and innovator ”
David Barstow of The New York Times and Brian Grow of Reuters were the 2012 co-winners of the Talking Biz News Business Journalist of the Year competition for their hard core company coverage.
Past winners of the Talking Biz News award have been Joseph Weisenthal of The Business Insider in 2011 for changing how business journalists deliver information to consumers and Andrew Ross Sorkin of The New York Times in 2010 for his insider coverage of Wall Street.
As for the whiteboards, Delaney says, “I find it easier to structure and explain ideas on whiteboards. And it shows we’re not stuck in the past and are expanding ideas.”
And then there are the glass-top tables in the Quartz conference rooms.
“What happens in meetings is that I take notes on the table,” said Delaney. “And then I take a photo on my phone before erasing the notes.”