How the Atlantic found profit online

December 13, 2010

Thanks to Heather Li for pointing me toward this New York Times article on the Atlantic, which “is on track to turn a tidy profit of $1.8 million this year”—in the black for the first time in over a decade.

How did they do it? Three things: they hired some very good staff, they completely reinvented the staff structure and, most important, they stopped thinking of the Atlantic as a printed product:

Separations between the digital and print staffs in both business and editorial operations came down. The Web site’s paywall was dismantled. A cadre of young writers began filling the newsroom’s cubicles. Advertising salespeople were told it did not matter what percentage of their sales were digital and what percentage print; they just needed to hit one sales target. A robust business around Atlantic-branded conferences took off.

I particularly like the readjustment of sales targets—most interestingly, both digital and print sales went up as a result of this, probably due to a lot more creative thinking and cross-platform sales.

Does your company keep digital and print teams separate, or is it one big happy family? How do you think combining forces would change your business?

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