G/O Media buys business news site Quartz

G/O Media, the owner of a handful of sites that once belonged to Gawker Media, announced Thursday it is scooping up the business news site Quartz.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Quartz co-founder and CEO Zach Seward told employees in a memo Thursday that he agreed to sell the business to G/O, owner of former Gawker sites like Deadspin, Jezebel and Gizmodo, to “help propel” its “next phase of growth.”

In turn, Seward said the media conglomerate, will help Quartz “unlock new revenue streams without any reduction in jobs.”

Insiders said it’s unclear how Quartz will mesh with G/O, a company with a notoriously bad track record with smooth post-merger transitions.

G/O CEO Jim Spanfeller told the New York Times that Quartz was an attractive acquisition because it has the potential to “lure subscribers and valuable advertisers like the consulting firm Accenture to G/O Media.”

G/O Media, which includes a host of former GawkerMedia sites, including pop culture site Jezebel, has acquired Quartz.

He added that Quartz “should be able to help scale up our existing lines of business as well as add some new ones that they have expertise in.”

Digital media companies have come under fire in recent years as the lion’s share of digital ad revenue is gobbled up by tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon. As a result, once buzzy digital media firms have joined forces, such as Vox Media and Group Nine, Buzzfeed and Complex Network and Vice Media and Refinery29.

Spanfeller said he is on the hunt for more deals to build up G/O, which was formed in 2019 after the private equity firm Great Hill Partners bought a handful of websites that used to be part of Gawker Media.

Jim Spanfeller
CEO Jim Spanfeller has come under fire several times by staffers at G/O Media.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The deal sparked outrage among employees, who were used to a free-wheeling, outspoken culture at Gawker. They griped about Spanfeller’s decision to bring in new “older white guy” hires that have ties to him from his past gigs, which include Playboy, Forbes Media.

Months later, the entire editorial team at sports media and culture site Deadspin resigned amid a conflict with Spanfeller over a directive to “stick to sports” reporting. Earlier this year, G/O Media staff went on strike for several days, demanding higher salary minimums.

So far, Spanfeller has reiterated that there will be no cuts at Quartz’s 50-journalist newsroom, but he did note that Katherine Bell, the site’s current editor in chief and his business partner, would step down from her role but remain as an adviser to the company. Seward will grab the title of editor in chief and general manager.

Screenshot of Deadspin.com
In 2019, staffers at Deadspin resigned en masse, after Spanfeller gave a directive about its editorial mission.

Quartz, founded in 2012 by Seward under the auspices of Atlantic Media, began as a business site. It soon expanded into topics from the global economy to luxury, lifestyle and even wellness, before it was sold in 2018 to Japanese firm Uzabase for a reported $86 million.

But the pandemic led to a decline in Quartz’s advertising revenue and Uzabase cut roughly 80 jobs. The site lost $11.2 million in the first half of 2020, ending in June on revenue of only $5 million. Just two years after buying it, Uzabase put Quartz up for sale.

Seward bought the struggling site for an undisclosed amount, although, sources told The Post at the time that he only paid $1. Since then, Seward said Quartz has grown its paying subscriber base to around 25,000, from fewer than 18,000 in April 2020.

Neither G/O nor Quartz disclosed their financials, but Spanfeller told The Times that his company was “profitable last year and increased its advertising revenue 53 percent from the year before.”