App Review: I give Quartz a 5/10

You tried. Nah.

For the most part, I trust in Medium. Medium is an online resource for writers and bloggers who have a genuine respect for the lost art of storytelling. Of course, not all writers provide the most accurate information–we are human, after all.

There is one post in particular that caught my eye; it was about the new iPhone app, Quartz, which portends to revolutionize the way we do journalism from here on out. The article surmises that Quartz imbues news stories with a new life of their own, making them more like conversations that the reader can interact with, as opposed to just gobbling up the news as part of your morning routine, and washing it down with a gulp of coffee, then moving on.

I downloaded the app to give it a go, and found all my hopes and dreams, about the future of journalism this article instilled in me, were dashed to the ground.

False Advertising

In J-school, we were taught the headline for our articles should always reflect the content therein. In fact, the headline is supposed to be the truncated summary for the story. Then the first line of the article (lead/lede) encapsulates the thought, providing the who, what, when, where of the matter, and if you read the rest of the story, you will notice that the details are at the end, with high priority facts up front. This is called the inverted pyramid, and I expected this article about journalism to behave this way.

No such luck.

The Times, They Are A Changin’

The fact of the matter is, I don’t follow those rules, myself, anymore. We’re no longer stuck in the box (or pyramid) where there are appropriate lengths for articles, because we’re not constricted to print only. We have all the space we need, here on the net, and one of the beautiful things about Medium is it tells you the length of time it would take the average reader to consume a particular article, right there alongside the headline.

So, if you want to kill four minutes, or you feel like digging into an in-depth 7-minute read, you are warned ahead of time. This way, you don’t find yourself skimming a 1,200-word essay when your intention is to divert yourself for a minute or two from some other task you’re procrastinating. In the hopes it’ll give you some hope for the future, you want to feel good about going back to that menial thing you’ve yet to complete.

Herein lines the gripe. An author on Medium lifted my spirits today, so much so, that I may have let out a tiny whimper and immediately scheduled a Facebook post to my blog page, only to find out that this so-called second-coming of new wave journalism is not all it’s cracked out to be.

Quartz is Quicker, but Twitter is Better

Quartz may appeal to people who like their news in bite-size portions, sprinkled with GIFs throughout. You can easily read a BuzzFeed listicle, if that sort of thing is your bag, baby.

Instead of scrolling through a bunch of nonsensical text in a BuzzFeed article, Quartz shows you little snippets of news stories in the form of an iMessage text, complete with glowing ellipses.


Then you have two choices, you can either click an emoji depicting some image related to the story, or you can click “next”.

At first, I thought this was a neat text-based RPG mode of communication, but you can’t actually type anything in response to the “text” that pops up. So, it’s less like a conversation, more like your entire Twitter feed is shredded apart and pieced back together into a false-chat app-like appendage.

And on Twitter, you can actually REPLY to PEOPLE who post the content. You can actually INTERACT with the news, in this way. Wow! Whodathunkit??? Obviously, the developers behind Quartz didn’t get the memo. (Or maybe, they don’t use Twitter?)

Also, Twitter just released this feature called “Moments”, where authenticated stories written by pro-journalists are filtered so that you can see what multiple news outlets are saying about any one given topic of the day. It’s ingenious, really.

So, why would waste your time and precious quad-core RAM on an extra app?

Don’t Get This App

What I’m saying is, if you have any stock in the future of journalism, you won’t buy into whatever it is Quartz is trying to sell you. The app is free, however, and there are no ads, but there’s just something fishy about it.

And Twitter loads faster, to be honest. I opened up Quartz on 4G LTE and it took, what, like five seconds to load. The developers boast that the app is designed to give you news in short bursts, so you can glean the biggest issues of the day while you’re waiting in line at the bank or standing on the train, but it’s not true, is it?

Quartz can stick with the web browser thing they have going on, if they want to remain a content-driven brand (open up on your phone, if you want to read a full-length news story). And that’s the thing, if you want to actually read a news story, don’t get the app. It’s gimmicky and lame.

I have a lot more to say, so if you’d like to have a conversation with me about it, send me a message on Twitter.

Featured image via The Verge

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