The Atlantic Wire Is Building Its Audience By Inserting Itself Into Social News Conversations

News site plans to expand staff, original reporting

The Atlantic Wire defines news differently.

It's not that news has changed radically in the age of digital disruption. But rather, it's the authority of who gets to decide what's news has changed, explained Gabriel Snyder, editor of The Atlantic Wire, a news site owned by Atlantic Media. Today, Snyder added, news isn't just the stories on the front page of The New York Times, it's also the social conversations swirling around current events. Which is where the Wire wants to play.

"We want The Wire to be both monitoring that and participating back into that social discussion—and understanding that major events, major ideas, major disclosures, is what’s news," Snyder said in an interview at the site's SoHo offices. Take, for example, Time magazine's cover story calling Millennials the "ME ME ME GENERATION." The story generated plenty of chatter on the Web, and The Atlantic Wire posted a rebuttal that went viral (as of this writing, the piece has been viewed more than 200,000 times).

"This cover that people are reacting to is a news event in the new media landscape," Snyder said.

It appears the site's strategy is paying off, as social media is its largest driver of traffic. The Atlantic Wire boasted record numbers in April:  8.5 million uniques, the company said, citing Omniture (3.9 million, per ComScore). May has already shaped up to be the site's second-best month with 6.2 million uniques as of May 30.

To put the numbers in context, the site's earlier traffic record was set in January 2013, with 5.1 million uniques. The Boston Marathon bombings last month generated massive general news interest, which explains why The Atlantic Wire—and many other online news sites — saw big numbers in April. The key for The Atlantic Wire is to translate those visitors into regular readers, particularly given the crowded space the company is trying to enter (think Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Salon).

Bob Cohn, the editor of Atlantic Digital, said the goal is to keep plugging away on the site's editorial strategy, which he described as telling readers "what matters now," on topics ranging from politics to business to technology to entertainment.

"That seems to be working," he said. "It's no small task to just keep on executing on that strategy and to get smarter and faster and bigger along the way."

The site also has plans to increase its staff as its audience continues to grow, from 11 people now to about 15 in the fall.

The Atlantic Wire's content, like many of its peers in the news-blog arena, is a mix of aggregation and analysis. While Snyder described his position as "source agnostic," he said he hopes to see more instances of original reporting on the site. But that doesn't mean writers will start chasing down spokespeople for the same statement a dozen news organizations have already surfaced. 

"I want to do original-original reporting," Snyder explained. "I want to do original reporting that people haven’t done 15 times before. In our language games, original reporting refers to reporting that people do themselves, but most original reporting is not original. It’s going though the motions that lots of other people have gone through. The kind of reporting, let’s call it reporting, that we privilege is stuff that people haven’t done yet."

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