Two years after chairman David Bradley, facing mounting costs, moved the 148-year-old Atlantic Monthly from Boston to D.C., the magazine is ramping up its political content, events—and staff—in advance of the 2008 presidential election.
In December, the magazine—celebrating its 150th anniversary next month—will publish the first cover story written by Andrew Sullivan, the popular conservative blogger whom the Atlantic lured away from Time magazine earlier this year. Sullivan’s cover subject? Barack Obama.
In January, the magazine will publish a “State of the Union” cover package that looks at America “after Iraq” and homeward at the issues that have been overshadowed by the war. “It’s, ’What is America ignoring at home?’” says publisher Elizabeth Baker Keffer.
To facilitate the push, the Atlantic hired Ronald Brownstein, national affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times, to be its political director, a newly-created position. (Brownstein is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of presidential campaigns.)
Since David Bradley bought the magazine in 1999, there’s been a very active effort to cover the world of politics, Keffer says.
The Atlantic was active during the 2004 conventions, piggybacking off of other Atlantic Media-owned properties including the National Journal, Government Executive and The Hotline. (All four now occupy the same building in Washington.) The magazine will have a huge presence there in 2008, says Keffer.
Keffer says the Atlantic, as it did in 2004, will organize small, private roundtable-style dinners to coincide with the 2008 conventions in Denver and Minneapolis. In 2004, the magazine organized a dinner in New Hampshire on the eve of the presidential primary, bringing together such political and media luminaries as Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw. For the Atlantic’s corporate sponsors, the “salons” are a subtle, sophisticated way to bring their brands to influential decision makers, Keffer says. The functions are in addition to larger public events planned for Washington and other election hotbeds.
Keffer also is planning a special September 2008 issue—5,000 copies of which will be distributed at both conventions.
Where the Atlantic will do most of its well-heeled muckraking is, of course, the Web. Keffer says the site has more than doubled its traffic (to 1.2 million unique users a month) and increased its online revenue three-fold (“well into the seven-digits”) this year. “It feels like the market has come to us,” says Keffer.
James Fallows, who currently resides in Shanghai, will provide an annotated version of George Bush’s State of the Union address in January, Keffer says. And the magazine already has associate editor Marc Ambinder blogging the 2008 presidential election from the roadshows. The blog launched in June.
Keffer says that while the Atlantic’s print advertising revenue is up only slightly this year (the magazine was up 2.9 percent in ad pages through June, accounting for $15 million), the magazine has seen a 15 percent increase in overall revenue, including online and events.
The magazine is also planning a 150th anniversary celebration in New York next month.
One thing the Atlantic won’t be doing, however: endorsing a candidate for president. And it’s been awhile. The last presidential endorsement Keffer can recall was for Abraham Lincoln. “It’s our job to represent all views,” says Keffer, “but not necessarily have a political ideology.”