If your media business was to die tomorrow, would anybody miss it? Would the publishing ecosystem be harmed by you not being a part of it?

These are the questions digital entrepreneur Rafat Ali asks to determine the value of the companies he has founded, which include paidContent and Skift, a B2B travel industry site.

“The value is, what’s your utility value to the user, to the reader?” Ali explained, speaking today at Digital Media Strategies USA.

“What’s the daily thing they get out of it that they can use to improve their life, improve their career?

Part of this comes from spotting a gap in the market which isn’t currently being catered to, of course.

Ali describes paidContent as “an accidental company” – a blog he started which then developed into a full-blown media company, raising $500,000 in investor funding in 2006.

Similarly, Skift offers lively news and analysis for the travel industry, a sector whose existing media is still largely focused on print.

For Ali, offering your audience something they can’t get elsewhere is the best way to bring value in an increasingly crowded media landscape.

If the whole world is running this way, if you stop and start walking the other way, there’s some value there.


At Quartz, editor-in-chief and co-president Kevin Delaney defined its value as trying to create “quality content that thrives in our digital world”.

The Quartz Daily Brief email newsletter, for example, is specifically targeted to global business professionals.

“Their news habit is pretty focused in the morning, and their news habit is pretty focused around email newsletters,” explained Delaney, citing Quartz’s own research

“That’s been an opportunity that Quartz has really run with,” he said, adding that the Daily Brief now has more than 150,000 subscribers and an open rate of 40-50 per cent.


Where possible, publishers should try to take a “longer-term perspective,” said Delaney.

“When we were designing Quartz we said we didn’t want any standard ad units, because we think the way forward is in bespoke ads and native advertising.

He added that Quartz also decided against a homepage (although it has since launched one), because they recognised the upwards trend for traffic coming through the “side door” of search and social media.

“We knew on day one that no-one would type in qz.com, and any effort that we put against editorially maintaining a homepage would be a distraction,” explained Delaney.

Quartz’s story is a good example of how media businesses should play to their strengths in order to manage resources effectively.

As Delaney acknowledges, “We’ve been able to make decisions that would have been really hard for traditional media organisations to make.”