But this year we decided to spring the $20 for a subscription to The Atlantic in print. According to this recent New York Times profile, their business model is working and I'm a representative customer. The magazine is 153 years old, so it's a national treasure. It covers a wide variety of topics and, as the Times piece says, "has long enjoyed a certain intellectual cachet," so it appeals to me. But it bled money for years trying to figure out how to operate in an online world. Then they figured it out:
"Since 2005, revenue at The Atlantic has almost doubled, reaching $32.2 million this year, according to figures provided by the company. About half of that is advertising revenue. But digital advertising — projected to finish the year at $6.1 million — represents almost 40 percent of the company’s overall advertising take. In the magazine business, which has resisted betting its future on digital revenue, that is a rate virtually unheard of. "
There are almost 5 million online visitors a month to the main website, millions more to The Atlantic Wire, and now The Atlantic holds conferences that are symposiums for popular thinkers and policymakers.
The irony is that the growth occurred when The Atlantic management decided to remove the paywall and make everything free online. So, if it's free, why do I pay for it?
1. I pay to have the material delivered in a way that I like. I like the photos on paper, I like seeing the advertisements to know what the target demographic is, I like flipping the page.
2. I pay because everything is free. I feel like I'm supporting a cause. I love knowing that part of my subscription goes to fund their bloggers like Ta-Nehisi Coates. Have you seen his blog? It's my guilty pleasure; he lives in the comments and it's like a community there. The other Atlantic bloggers are famous in their own ways.
I use The Atlantic Wire heavily as it's a repository of what everyone is talking about. Want to know what every major blogger or columnist thinks on an event that happened today? You go there to find the links and summaries. It's a wonderful service that makes me happy.
Apparently I'm not alone in my feelings because their revenue has been increasing even in the midst of a recession.
I don't have enough time to read all the things I wish I could, my Instapaper backlog is a testimony to that. But The Atlantic is always worth reading. I learn about topics I never would have bothered thinking about. So, it's coming to my house this year.