Amid tough times for mass-market print magazines, The Atlantic has once again bucked the trend by tapping into the political anxieties of the American public.
Citing a surge in new subscriptions in the wake of the U.S. presidential election, the D.C.-based politics and policy magazine is producing a second run of its January/February print edition featuring national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates' 17,000-word cover story, "My President Was Black."
It's the second time in six months that The Atlantic has produced an extra batch of print issues to meet rising demand. In July, the magazine made the then-unprecedented move of printing an extra 25,000 copies of its July/August issue, featuring the cover story, "How American Politics Went Insane." By anyone's guess, it was the first such re-printing of a single issue in The Atlantic's 160-year history.
This time, The Atlantic is upping the ante, printing an additional 40,000 copies to be distributed across retail outlets and to new subscribers who signed up after the January/February issue was shipped.
The aftermath of Election Day yielded record-breaking surges of new subscribers to the magazine in November and December, according to company spokeswoman Anna Bross. The last two months of 2016 alone accounted for one-third of all subscription orders placed online for the entire year. In the end, The Atlantic gained more than four-times as many new subscribers in 2016 as it did in 2014, and new subscription orders were up 56 percent over 2015, according to the company.
"We saw a spike in subscriptions and support for The Atlantic following the election. That momentum continued in December," Bross tells Folio:. "The surge was driven primarily by online and email offers, and our standard offers in those places were at our normal subscription rates. We haven't historically or recently offered deep discounts on subscriptions."
The Atlantic didn't share the specific number of new subscribers, but according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media, the magazine averaged 442,000 paid subscribers in print for the six months ending in June 2016, the most recent reporting period.
Things appear equally rosy on the newsstand side of the business. The numbers on the December issue aren't in yet, but Bross says The Atlantic is anticipating a 14.8 percent year-over-year increase in single-copy sales in 2016. Judging by the magazine's 2015 numbers, that would place total newsstand sales at around 447,000 units — or about 45,000 per issue.
Whether by drawing the ire of the President-elect's Twitter account with a negative restaurant review, galvanizing a new audience of young readers to take part in political discourse, or simply investing in a deeper commitment to political coverage, the 2016 election — and everything that's come with it — is proving to be a boon for legacy media.