Folio: ran a nice end-of-year article on The Atlantic, which recorded its second consecutive year in the black.
A “thought leadership” magazine founded in 1857, The Atlantic had not turned a profit in decades. In the last several years, the magazine raised its price substantially, trimmed (and later grew) its rate base and broadened its digital and in-person (events) business.
Although the shelf life of examples can be short, I think a key part of The Atlantic‘s success rests in its decision to charge readers a healthy price for its subscriptions. The decision helped the publication balance circulation and advertising revenues and invest in digital platforms and live events.
Reducing the magazine’s rate base by 28% (from 450,000 to 325,000) was a bold move, but it reduced reliance on less-profitable third-party sources for new subscriptions. It also turned circulation from a loss leader into a profit center for The Atlantic.
While it took several years to build the other businesses, The Atlantic demonstrates that readers will pay for content, when that content is valued and delivered in ways that make sense for them. It’s not just a race to the bottom.