Roadmap for a Magazine’s Online Turnaround

The Atlantic Monthly 1857The Atlantic has renewed efforts to bring their magazine brand online, with impressive results.

“The Web site “functioned for too long as just a marketing arm for the print magazine, rather than publication in its own right,” said James Bennet, the editor in chief. For years, he said, “it was a very small number of people, working very hard, who kept it alive.”

Steps they have taken:

  • Hire prominent commentators/bloggers
    “in February, it hired Andrew Sullivan, the iconoclastic, sometimes conservative commentator, who is one of the nation’s most prominent journalists. Justin Smith, the president of Atlantic Media, estimated that the addition of Mr. Sullivan’s blog accounts for 30 percent of the increased traffic.”

  • Blend print and online content strategy
    “The result has been a sort of digital conversation, with writers testing themes that later turn into long-form articles, and responding — sometimes negatively — to each other’s postings and to articles in the magazine.”

  • Take down the paywall
    “The site has added video and put more articles outside the fire wall, including archival pieces by the likes of Mark Twain.”

  • Hire more online ad salespeople
    “Goldman Sachs will sponsor the elimination of the fire wall, buying all the ad space this week.”

The result:

“The number of visitors jumped to 308,000 last month from 72,000 in December 2006, according to comScore Media Metrix. (Like most publications, The Atlantic says the true numbers are much higher.) The print magazine sells about 400,000 copies, a figure that has more or less held steady.”

While the magazine is still not profitable, these are steps in the right direction.

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