Atlantic plans publication push for subscribers

Atlantic plans publication push for subscribers

Right here’s a media pattern: Journalists organising their very own newsletters as an alternative of working for large, established publishers.

Right here’s a media pattern working in the other way: Large, established publishers with sturdy enterprise fashions or large backers — or each — consolidating their energy by hoovering up expertise.

And right here’s a narrative that may do each: The Atlantic is launching a publication providing that wishes to carry writers below the Atlantic’s umbrella (and paywall) whereas letting them keep semi-independent.

The concept, per individuals acquainted, is for the journal to unveil a roster of publication writers — possibly a dozen or so — within the coming weeks. They’ll solely be out there to Atlantic subscribers. The New York Occasions has carried out one thing related this 12 months, rolling out subscriber-only letters from writers, together with Kara Swisher and Jay Caspian Kang.

One large distinction between the Atlantic’s plan and different publication distributors is that, in some instances, the Atlantic is recruiting writers who’re already within the paid publication enterprise. And it desires to transform these writers’ subscribers into Atlantic subscribers.

No less than a kind of writers, I’ve confirmed, is a author who at the moment has arrange store at Substack, the corporate that kicked off the newest publication increase by making it simple (theoretically) to generate income self-publishing.

Right here’s the tough define of what the Atlantic desires to do, through individuals with information:

  • The Atlantic isn’t hiring the writers as full-time staff, however will provide them some form of base fee with the power to make further cash in the event that they hit sure subscriber targets. So it’s a way more dependable revenue supply than a paid publication — even Casey Newton, a contributing author for Vox Media’s The Verge, who has been working his personal, profitable, Substack for the final 12 months, says he sees month-to-month churn of three to 4 p.c.
  • If the writers are already promoting paid subscriptions to their letters, the Atlantic desires to show these subscriptions into Atlantic subscriptions. That’s: Should you’re at the moment paying Provocative However Thinky Takes Man $5 a month for his work, now that very same cash will get you that letter, plus some other newsletters the Atlantic publishes, plus the Atlantic itself, which at the moment sells a digital-only subscription for $50 a 12 months.
  • E-newsletter writers who be a part of the Atlantic’s program get to maintain their present listing of subscribers. So in the event that they determine to bail on the Atlantic, they may begin up their enterprise once more.
  • How a lot oversight or help the letter writers will get from Atlantic editors and employees nonetheless appears like a piece in progress. However the thrust is that the writers are supposed to stay editorially impartial from the publication; they gained’t be edited by Atlantic editors. Replace: Acquired some mild pushback from an Atlantic supply on this level — appears extra correct to say publication writers may have some mild oversight from Atlantic editors, although it’s unclear what precisely that may entail. So what occurs if the Atlantic finally ends up hiring somebody the Atlantic decides is just too racy/racist/problematic for the Atlantic? Good query!

An Atlantic spokesperson declined to remark.

It’s simple to see the enchantment of this system to the Atlantic, led by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg and CEO Nick Thompson. The publication will get a brand new roster of voices and the potential for immediately rising its subscriber numbers. And whereas extra subscribers are at all times good, they might be significantly good for the Atlantic proper now, which thrived through the Trump years and the pandemic specifically however, like different publishers, has seen its web site site visitors droop as Trump and Covid-19 have stopped dominating the information cycle.

And since declining site visitors makes it tougher to transform new readers into subscribers, something that brings in new eyeballs — not to mention an injection of paying readers — could be welcome. (Right here we should always observe that regardless that the Atlantic is owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire desires the publication, which had a spherical of layoffs within the early months of the pandemic, to be self-sustaining.)

The pitch to writers is a bit more nuanced, with some components spelled out and different components extra tacit. The plain one: Come work at an award-winning publication with large attain, backed by a billionaire. Unspoken: Perhaps you thought you’d be crushing it when you began up your publication enterprise. However possibly you’re not, and possibly you’d like a gentle paycheck. Operating a solo store isn’t for everyone.

That mentioned, some publication writers who’ve discovered receptive audiences — primarily through Substack — are making far more cash than they ever did at established media corporations.

Former New York Occasions opinion author and editor Bari Weiss, as an example, tells me she now has 16,500 subscribers to her Substack, Widespread Sense. Which at $5 per subscriber, monthly, means she might be bringing in $890,000 a 12 months, after Substack takes its 10 p.c price. So don’t anticipate Weiss to indicate up within the Atlantic’s roster anytime quickly.

I requested Substack co-founder Hamish McKenzie what it means if rivals just like the Atlantic poach a few of his authors. He was gracious about it. “We root for writers even after they’re not Substackers, so we’re glad to see a pattern towards extra possession for writers,” McKenzie mentioned in a press release. “We’ve at all times advocated for writers to have full possession of their content material and audiences, and we applaud each step on this route.”

McKenzie and his workforce have clearly contemplated some sort of this platform-jumping: A part of Substack’s pitch is that writers can simply stroll away, taking all of the content material they revealed and an e-mail listing of all their subscribers. And Substack’s success has spurred new rivals, together with Fb and Twitter, each of which might simply outspend Substack in the event that they need to — as I reported in June, Fb dropped $6 million on the URL for Bulletin, its Substack clone.

However for those who’re not a Substack celebrity, possibly it doesn’t take a ton of cash to woo you from the corporate: only a regular paycheck and the power to jot down for an enormous group of individuals. Like individuals at some common media corporations do.

Clarification, October 9: This text has been up to date to mirror an Atlantic supply’s assertion {that a} coming slate of publication writers may have a point of oversight by Atlantic editors.

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