Why Quartz’s news app is so much bigger than news

Have you tried the Quartz News app, yet? Please do. Imagine a text conversation with a bot that sends you a news topic. You’re then presented with two choices: Either tap a string of relevant (and surprisingly entertaining) emojis, which is like pressing “learn more,” or tap an “anything else?” button to have another topic served:


If you opt for the emojis, the app sends 1-3 follow-on texts that provide a high-level summary of the story and link to the article. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see a pertinent and entertaining gif in the mix for added value.



When it comes to news apps in general, I like to scroll through a daily aggregator feed I’ve personalized to my liking; I usually don’t want someone else telling me which news stories to pay attention to — especially not one at a time. So originally, my intrigue with Quartz News left me feeling a little conflicted (#WhoAmI?).

Plus, while I’m sure they’ll add personalization, at first this app knew nothing about me and my news preferences. I was fed a random, Hail Mary topic on something I only opted to learn more about 20 percent of the time. Yet I willingly continued to let them try.

This is because there was a comfortable, visceral familiarity with the app that made me want to spend more time with it. It’s similar to talking to a friend with lightning-quick response time. Except in this scenario, you’re “conversing” with a lite, programmed AI with informative yet amusing responses.

In other words, I was engaged in large part because I knew an immediate response would follow. It satisfies the “instant gratification” check box. And the medium is familiar — it mimics texting, which is how we spend much of our modern lives.

That’s when it hit me: The magnitude of what I was experiencing was much bigger than simply news-based interactive texts. In fact, it’s likely just the beginning. Here’s why:

It’s poised to send shock waves through the live-chat industry.

How much more fun will it be to skip scanning an endless page of outdated FAQs and instead “text” with a witty bot?

Live chat has been a significant upgrade in customer support over the years. But this kind of mobile and interactive chat has even more potential. For those brands and companies who elect to use it with customers, I imagine an added layer of interactivity and decision-tree-like qualifiers. As a result, it will maximize moderator efficiency, allowing them to know exactly when they need to step in, while still delighting the customer. These interactive qualifiers wouldn’t be “off the cuff,” either — they would be pre-validated by endless customer support data points.

The timing is ripe, too. Millennials, for instance, don’t want more customer service, they want different customer service. My hunch is that live-chat adoption will not only increase, but we’ll also see an increased willingness to leave more candid feedback.

Interactivity amplifies live-chat-provider features while strengthening the brand-to-consumer relationship, whether you have one customer or one million. The learning curve will be virtually non-existent, there will be little to no rollout fear and it’ll come with unlimited upside and brand-messaging customization.

Anyone on the over/under that Intercom is the first-mover, here?

Harder, better, faster, stronger AI

Hal 2.0 is coming. AI needs to quickly evolve to have “Siri-like” text conversations with customers. That AI would arguably be able to have a sophisticated conversation with the customer, scan their shopper profile through necessary auths, ask them the correct, pertinent questions and guide them to specific products via informed logic in real time — all without the need of a support rep.

The data repository of consumer insights alone will be invaluable, but we’re also talking about a massively better experience on the customer side. After all, how much more fun will it be to skip scanning an endless page of outdated FAQs and instead “text” with a witty bot?

Admittedly, I see Amazon being able to have the most fun with a project like this, as they’d be able to predictably scan and package up their personalization techniques via interactive text. They’re already making huge AI strides, as it is. “Hal-azon” comes to mind. Too soon?


O startup, startup, wherefore art thou, startup?

It’s inevitable that players will emerge to take advantage of the opportunities here, which are endless. For example: replace news with promo incentives. I present to you the Quartz app, remastered:


The potential applied-use scenarios really are endless. From gamification to loyalty to surveys, there will be no lack of opportunity for startups to serve an evolving need.

I consider this the early stages of next-gen consumer interaction. Dive in, ladies and gentlemen, there’s plenty of room.