Betting On Tortoise: What Britain’s Newest Media Group is Doing to Win the Race for Readers

In Aesop’s classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, a rabbit’s hubris is matched against a tortoise’s steady confidence — and everybody familiar with the tale knows how that story ends. Still, if forest animals could gamble, there’s no question who they would have bet on when the race began.

Which makes Tortoise Media different from the fabled animal it’s named for. With a group of publishing veterans behind it, it’s one of the best bets in media today — even as the race is still only getting started.

The Piano client — which officially launched its membership-driven news site on April 2, 2019, following a three-month beta run — has embraced the tortoise’s slow-and-steady ethos, choosing to focus resources on what its readers need to know rather than chasing every news story. And the bets are already being placed: Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund was so impressed, in fact, they awarded the company €553,000 in March.

Led by founding editor James Harding — former director of news and current affairs at the BBC — the Tortoise team also includes publisher Katie Vanneck-Smith, once of Dow Jones and Times of London, and Chairman Matthew Barzun, former Obama campaign-finance chair and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. But that pedigreed lineup is only one component of Tortoise’s winning strategy. Britain’s newest digital media group is combining quality journalism (with only five stories a day, focused on deeper analysis and insights) available online or through a mobile app, with a quarterly print edition and in-person “ThinkIn” events that invite members into their newsroom both virtually and literally, to share their views and have a say on ongoing coverage. 

It’s a promising start for the new media company. And Piano is proud to be partnering with Tortoise, as Composer, VX and ID help fuel them to the finish line.

To find out exactly how Tortoise plans on making its slow-news model a fast success, read our cover story in Volume 3 of Traffic. Piano’s magazine for digital business is available now.

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