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Quartz’s Fun News App Is Quite Unlike Any News App You’ve Seen Before

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If you’re tired of news apps that all look the same, you’ll want to take a look at the iPhone app that Quartz just put out.

The news site, which is owned by Atlantic Media, is known for taking a different approach to publishing. Quartz executive editor Zach Seward once described it as an API that “can go anywhere our readers are, in whatever form is appropriate,” and the site is well known for its daily newsletter, which has over 185,000 subscribers and an impressive 40 percent open rate.

With this app (an Android version is coming soon), Quartz has dispensed with the conventional approach to news and instead introduced a chat messaging interface through which content is delivered.

Using a clear and clean design aesthetic, the Quartz bot interacts with you, offering up news stories which you can choose to get more information about or move on to the next. Links, which include some stories that aren’t from Quartz, are subtly held within some (but not all) chat bubbles, while there’s a dash of playful emojis and GIFs and the bot uses ‘while typing’ icons, too. During downtime between stories, the app even served me a quiz question.

Beyond chat, there are push notifications, a chart of the day extension, and an Apple Watch app that “gauges the markets with an emoji on your watch face.”

That’s really about it, it’s super simple and a real breath of fresh air.

Of course there are initial limitations, such as a lack of topics for news selection and the fact that it takes longer to get through the days top news, but the overall approach makes the app standout from others. With a little more personalization it could become a keeper, a news app to complement your existing news apps.

“We had a suspicion [that this] could be an interesting way to get the news across,” Seward told TechCrunch in a phone interview. “We don’t know yet how [we will] expand [the app] or what features to add because the first step is to see how people are using it.”

Rather than merely posting links or copying content from its stories, Quartz developed dedicated content for the app using a team of writers — led by Adam Pasick, who ran Reuters’ futuristic foray into Second Life back in 2006 — a tech and design team, and even a dedicated CMS.

Interestingly, the Quartz news bot app is sponsored. Messaging is a notoriously challenging medium to monetize, and popular consumer chat apps have so far had most success around selling digital goods like stickers or offline services. Quartz is using subtle advertising, with Mini its initial launch partner.

Messaging continues to become a growing medium for publishers — BuzzFeed, for one, runs its social and messaging accounts like a newspaper runs its daily edition — but for many it is unclear how to proceed. Quartz is taking a big step that is sure to help it learn more about the future of messaging as a news medium. It isn’t hard to imagine this very same experience being tweaked and replicated across multiple chat messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, Kik or WeChat in the future. For now, though, this is phase one.

You can get the Quartz app here.