Takeaway: Thompson balances the informative with the interesting to create buzz both in print and online.
While The Atlantic has a reputation based on counter-cultured youth and energy, economics writing, to be kind, does not. Those are the two worlds Derek Thompson occupies as the business editor at TheAtlantic.com though.
“Business and economics aren’t naturally interesting to a lot of people,” he admits. “So we try to write stories that are wide enough to get someone like my grandmother reading, but also deep enough to engage wonkster economists.”
Thompson, in addition to overseeing editorial content for the business section, is second in attracting unique visitors to TheAtlantic.com out of a stable of more than 20 writers.
Working in tandem with Jordan Weissmann, another business writer at The Atlantic, Thompson covers the Millennial, or Generation Y, beat. He points to a story in the September 2012 issue as one of his most important pieces to date—not necessarily for the content, but for the way it was published and the reaction it drew.
The story itself, “The Cheapest Generation,” expanded on previous blog posts, analyzing why 21- through 34-year-olds are buying cars and houses at lower rates than their predecessors and discussing how the trend could affect the economy at-large.
“We took two strong website pieces, put them together, spun it forward to create a great magazine piece and then spun that magazine piece back out onto the web to continue the conversation. So it was a nice, virtuous cycle that I think speaks to the exciting possibilities of a print magazine and website existing as a cohesive unit.”
That cycle arose naturally out of “The Cheapest Generation,” but now that he has a template, Thompson hopes to replicate it.
“That way,” he says, “the idea is really living both in the awesome and messy real-time world of the Internet, and also in the more rarified air of the printed-page mailed to half-a-million subscribers.”