Quartz's Japanese parent company Uzabase is seeking a buyer for the business news site -- a mere two years after acquiring it for $86 million from Atlantic Media, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper's sources say Uzabase, a financial-data company based in Tokyo, is likely to lose money on the sale.
The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have hurt publishers, but the pain appears to be unevenly distributed. Axios is on course to boost revenue by 30% to $58 million and make a profit this year as the digital news startup finds more sponsors for its free newsletters, the WSJreported last week.
In contrast, Quartz saw a major drop in revenue when Uzabase revamped the business model to lessen a dependence on advertising, according to public filings. To diversify revenue, Quartzstarted charging a subscription fee, currently $100 a year, or $15 a month.
Uzabase estimated it will see $1.9 million in subscription revenue this year from Quartz, which said it ended the first half of the year with about 21,000 subscribers. In a public report to investors, the company said the pandemic actually helped to increase subscriptions to Quartz, likely as more people worked from home and spent more time reading news.<
However, the subscription gains weren't enough to overcome a steep drop in ad revenue that hurt overall results.
After declining by 22% to $27 million in 2019, Quartz's total revenue plunged 57% to $5 million in the first half from a year earlier. The falling revenue has magnified its EBITDA loss, which reached $11.2 million in the first half and is on course to exceed the $18.6 million loss for 2019.
It's easy to say the pub made a mistake in charging subscriptions for Quartz, given the difficulties in weaning readers off free content. However, businesspeople are willing to pay for value-added news and information that help them make better decisions.
The key is offering exclusive content that can't be found elsewhere, boosting the value proposition for paying readers. Any new owner of Quartzwill have to recognize the importance of investing in quality editorial that make the site more valuable.