The Atlantic Cities is finally all grown-up and heading out on its own—or getting its own URL, at least.
Following in the footsteps of sister property The Wire, the three-year-old urban-planning site is relaunching with a new name, CityLab, as well as a major redesign and expanded editorial mandate.
The Atlantic Cities launched in 2011 with a staff of one writer (Sommer Mathis, now editor of the site), a producer and an intern. It now boasts a full-time edit staff of nine. “There was a sense that we had kind of outgrown the site that we built early on,” said Mathis. “We’ve gotten to the point where the site can really can stand on its own as a brand.”
The site is adding three new verticals—crime, weather and maps—as well as a section called Navigator that will offer more lifestyle content (as Mathis describes it, “service-y, but with an Atlantic spin”). Topics will include city etiquette (a future piece will deal with the rules of umbrella usage) and how-to guides (forthcoming: a handbook on romance for those living in tiny spaces). CityLab will not be your typical city site, though. “What we’re not going to be doing is the Top 10 Mojitos in Chicago,” Mathis said.
Siemens signed on as launch sponsor of CityLab.
With the revamp, the site aims to attract a broader readership. “We feel like we really nailed down our core audience—the hardcore, professional urbanists—but beyond that, there are the enthusiasts, people who are passionate about a lot of the subjects we cover,” said Mathis. “We’ve always thought about that outer ring as where we want to head next, and that’s a big reason why we’re moving to this new site.”
There are plenty of changes on the design side, too. While The Atlantic Cities had a dedicated mobile site (more than 40 percent of its traffic comes by way of smartphones and tablets), the new CityLab got a far more comprehensive mobile-first treatment, including fully responsive design. The article pages feature a cleaner design and full-page images. Archived content is more easily navigable thanks to the CityFixer feature, which lets users filter stories by a dozen different topics, from streets to climate change. (Siemens is also exclusive sponsor of CityFixer.)
The new name was inspired by The Atlantic Cities’ CityLab conference, launched last year with an event in New York sponsored by The Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropies. (A second event is scheduled for Los Angeles this September.) “When we began looking at new names, CityLab was at the top of our list because it reflected the site’s mission of covering innovation and experimentation, and it was something that people already associated with our work,” said Bob Cohn, president and chief operating officer of The Atlantic.
Of course, changing your brand name can have its downside—as The Atlantic discovered last year when it relaunched The Atlantic Wire as The Wire and took a traffic hit. To avoid a similar fate with CityLab, the company said it is working with Google on SEO strategies.