Quartz vs. TheSkimm

Quartz is a news app that gives ongoing conversations about news. It’s mean to feel like texting; the app sends you messages, photos, gifs and links to the top news stories of the day. The user has the option to subscribe to notifications about breaking news or important events.

TheSkimm is a newsletter that comes in the form of an email. It covers the top trending news, and is sent out Monday through Friday. The user is given the option to choose what time of day the newsletter is sent to their email inbox. It has a light hearted tone, avoiding technical jargon. The target market for the app is millennials, but the voice feels as if it’s more targeted towards women.

Both apps have a conversational tone, and are meant to feel like a friend telling you about what’s happening in the world. This was a conscious choice by the designers in an attempt to resonate with a younger audience. However, the voices feel distinctly different. TheSkimm feels a little ditzier, and sometimes makes so many pop culture references it’s a bit hard to follow. In contrast Quartz is more subtle, throwing in the occasional gif or emoji and keeping the language simple and accessible. Perhaps the biggest different is that TheSkimm feels gendered, specifically targeting millennial women whereas Quartz is more gender neutral. There are uncomfortable implications in the fact that the publication targeting women feels it has to dumb down its language.

Even though they have different formats, the current form of the platforms restricts the content to only covering the top news of the day. Both content streams follow a linear path, and have an end point. On Quartz, the user clicks buttons to learn more about a topic, or continue to the next story. On Skimm, the user can choose whether to only read the headline or “skim” down to read the whole paragraph for something they find interesting. Due to limited interactivity, users cannot search for topics they’re interested in. There is also no option to follow specific topics the user is interested in, such as getting a whole stream that only focuses on tech.

Both apps have context for each story in case you’re unsure about the topic. TheSkimm is more rigorous about including this content, for example if they mention something about Syria they’ll include a mini description of the entire conflict in Syria. When including stories about something more unknown, Quartz will give an option to get some background or to continue to the next story. This is beneficial to their user base who is supposedly too busy to stay up to date with current events extensively, but still wishes to be informed. News becomes uninteresting if you have no context for what’s happening, and thus both apps try to solve this by including background for users who need it.

In the future, Quartz could become truly conversational and expand to covering specific topics that the user is interested in. Quartz could become a true conversational platform where the user could ask questions, but this would depend on natural language processing technology improving. Since it comes in an email, the format of TheSkimm doesn’t have the same possibility for growth in the future.

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