In a bid for new reader revenue, Quartz launches a membership for Africa

Quartz, the digital news site covering global business, has launched a location-specific subscription for its work on innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa.

The new Quartz Africa membership is the outlet’s second geographically-based subscription product. The first, Quartz Japan, currently has 4,400 subscribers, and others, including a Quartz India, are in the works. Quartz Africa is cheaper ($60/year) than either a full Quartz subscription ($100/year) or Quartz Japan (¥10000 or about $86 per year at 115.22 Japanese Yen to the dollar).

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for the newly independent Quartz. Like many in digital media, Quartz has turned toward reader revenue and, in 2019, put its articles behind a paywall. In May 2020, Quartz was forced to lay off 80 workers. At the time, Quartz CEO Zach Seward cited a pandemic-related drop in digital advertising dollars and told staff that though Quartz had acquired nearly 18,000 paying subscribers one year after erecting its paywall, advertising still accounted for the bulk of its revenue.

Since then, Quartz says it has hired dozens of staff back into new and existing roles and brought its headcount back up to 110. (That’s down from the 188 employed at the end of 2019.) Subscription revenue has grown as a share of revenue, but advertising still accounts for the majority of Quartz’s earnings, the company confirmed.

Editor-in-chief Katherine Bell said that though Quartz Japan and Quartz Africa are both geographically focused, the new verticals are “actually quite different” from one another.

“Quartz Japan translates the Daily Brief and other Quartz stories into Japanese, and produces some local stories about business news,” Bell said. “Quartz Africa will be aimed not only at readers on the continent, but also readers in the African diaspora and investors and entrepreneurs around the world who are interested in Africa.”

A full-time team of four covers the entire continent. Editor Ciku Kimeria is based between Nairobi, Kenya and Dakar, Senegal; two general reporters are based in Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi; and a climate change reporter writes from Cairo, Egypt. Kimeria also relies on a team of about 20 freelance reporters — based in cities like Addis, Abidjan, Harare, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, and Douala — to “give readers a taste of what innovation looks like in a diverse continent, with 54 nations, lots of cities, and growing tech hubs.”

“One week readers might learn more about an AI and robotics company based in Addis that is a forerunner in the sector, or a genomics research firm headquartered in Lagos, but with regional ambitions, or a fintech company in Lusaka, Nairobi, Cairo, Yaounde, or Hargeisa that is changing the way Africans do business,” Kimeria said. “The main evolution is that as the weeks progress, readers will have a fuller picture of the continent’s booming, bustling scene.”

About 90,000 people read Quartz Africa’s newsletter weekly. Some of the vertical’s most popular coverage includes articles charting the influence of other countries (especially China) on Africa, crypto ventures, and individual startups, including a drone service delivering to hospitals in Rwanda and Ghana and a Pinterest-like social network. You can read more from Quartz Africa here.

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