With Quartz’s App, You Don’t Read the News. You Chat With It

Posted February 11th 2016


In the app, which launches today and is Quartz’s first, you don’t read the news; you chat with it. Instead of headlines, you get messages that read like texts from a friend—if your friend were a news-obsessed but reliable source with an irreverent tone of voice. Odd as that might sound, it’s pretty engaging. Story blurbs are occasionally packaged with gifs. When the app runs out of stories to feed you, it serves up a quiz question (e.g. “What’s the busiest airport in the world, by number of passengers, Atlanta or Beijing?✈️”). It’s still the news, just in a new package. (There are, however, still ads—some things don’t change.)

Chat-based user interfaces are growing in popularity, especially in China, but mostly for services. For news outlets it’s a very underutilized interface. Open it at any given time, and a synopsis of a news item, written by a team of about six editors in Washington, D.C. and London, pops up. It’s not an excerpt from the article—it’s a conversational blurb written specifically for the chat interface. A hyperlink arrow next to a text bubble signals that you can click through to a full article (which could be from an organization like The New York Times or Reuters, in addition to Quartz), but you don’t have to. You can query the app for more highlights from the current article, or ping it for other news recaps. Everything is displayed in text bubbles that deliberately mimic iOS’s iMessage interface. “It’s intuitive because it’s a format that we use everyday, as far as iMessage goes, Facebook Messenger, and Slack,” saysDaniel Lee, who led the design on the app. “It’s intimate because it’s a one-on-one conversation with somebody.”

via Wired